Is Problem Gambling Increasing in India?
Online gambling is a hot topic in general, but particularly right now as more and more people started playing in online casinos since the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we at LiveCasinoKings observe the industry closely, we have noticed a visible increase in gambling activity since the lockdowns imposed by most governments began in early March.
Brands, such as LeoVegas and JungleRaja, are reporting a notable increase, not only from their existing customers, but more people than usual are joining the site.
At the same time, as we’re experiencing this, governments around the world are intervening as they see an increased risk for social problems because of gambling. There is no doubt that the lives of many people have been disrupted due to the novel coronavirus. Because of this, people are more vulnerable, and there is a belief that there is a higher risk of people developing a gambling addiction. To combat this, governments are imposing restrictions and guidelines for online casino operators and informing the public about the risks associated with gambling and how to prevent this hobby from becoming a problem.
A Look at Gambling Addiction in India
Back in December 2019, we published a market report, estimating the current value of the online gambling market in India along with future growth projections. What we wanted to highlight in this article is exactly how big of a problem gambling addiction is in India. Since India is still an unregulated market, it’s challenging to get any official data. We found that the best way to approach this analysis is by looking at other markets outside of India, where more data is available, and use the data to compare and project.
With human behaviour, despite cultural differences and surroundings, we share many behavioural patterns. The tools and the content related to online entertainment is available in pretty much any country, and if we are left with our own devices, we will likely develop a habit. Of course, there is always a certain percentage of the population that’ll overdo it to the point where the habit becomes a problem. As with watching TV, playing video games, or eating fast food, playing casino games and betting on sports online can also become a problem. Since money is involved when gambling online, problematic behaviour can have bad consequences.
With this in mind, we decided to base the estimations for gambling addiction in India on how it looks in other markets around the world. We looked at data from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Norway. Problem gambling prevalence rate was as high as 2.6% in the United States and as low as 0.5% in Australia. When looking at all markets combined, we got an average of 1.55%.
We took the number of people who gamble in India, and as these findings show, 45.8% of Indians gambled in 2018. This survey includes people who play the lottery, bingo, horse racing, dog racing, sports betting, cards and casino games at some point during the year of 2018. This year, it’s estimated that 564.5 million people will have internet access in India. If we consider that 45.8% of the population in India gamble for money, this means that up to 258.5 million people could gamble for money online in India during 2020. Out of the 258.5 million people, we estimate that 1.55% have a gambling problem. 1.55% means that roughly 4 million people in India have an online gambling addiction today.
Did Online Gambling Increase during Covid-19 Lockdown?
Overall, we would estimate that there has been a 10% increase year-on-year in online gambling for the same period as 2019, mostly fueled by casino games and live casino games in particular such as blackjack and roulette.
It may seem like the coronavirus is the perfect storm for online gambling operators, but let’s not forget that while there is an increase in casino games, there’s also been a massive decrease in sports betting. As we all know, the Indian Premier League in cricket along with all other sports was suspended. The IPL was set to start on the 29th of March with the blockbuster match between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. The start date for the IPL was postponed until April 15th and then again postponed until further notice. When circumstances allow it, cricket will resume and priority will be given to domestic leagues and tournaments instead of international events. Hopefully, it’s all over by October, when the ICC T20 World Cup is scheduled to start in Australia. On a hopeful note, this upcoming weekend the Vincy Premier League in the Caribbean will start and play through the end of May.
To the question of whether or not problem gambling is increasing in India, there are two ways to look at it:
First, there is, of course, a correlation between an increase of new people that gamble and the number of people with a gambling problem.
Second, the percentage, 1.55% of everyone having a gambling problem, is constant where we won’t see a notable increase or decrease before, during, or after the lockdown.
At the same time, almost all sporting events across the globe are postponed until further notice. Most casinos also offer sports betting. Since there are few sporting events to bet on at the moment, some sports punters will likely move to the riskier casino products where there is a higher risk that each individual would develop a gambling problem.