Research > Economic and Social Research Council

Project overview

Around 2 million people experience harms from gambling, and many gamble on live events (including sports) and online. The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated unprecedented restrictions on people’s movements and interactions in public and private settings, and led to the cancellation of major sports events and social activities. These consequences of the COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ have altered the gambling landscape worldwide.

There is an urgent need to provide regulators, policy makers and treatment providers (e.g. World Health Organisation (WHO), Gambling Commission, All Party Parliamentary Group on online gambling harms) with high quality evidence on the changing patterns and context of gambling behaviours during COVID-19 and its aftermath.

Insight is needed into: the actions undertaken by industry so regulators can consider immediate actions; understanding of new risk groups susceptible to gambling harms to develop effective prevention strategies; and understanding of the escalation and maintenance of harms to inform treatment and support provision.

To meet this need, this project addresses three major research questions: ‘How has COVID-19 changed gambling practices, and the risk factors for and experience of gambling harms?’; ‘What is the effect of COVID-19 on gambling marketing?’; and ‘How has COVID-19 changed high risk groups’ gambling experiences and practices?’.

Drawing on our extensive experience of mixed-methods research, we focus on two groups at particular risk of adopting more risky, online gambling practices – young adults and sports bettors.

Project outputs

Hunt K, Critchlow N, Brown A, Bunn C, Dobbie F, Donnachie C, Gray CM, Purves R, Reith G, Stead M, Mitchell D, Wardle H. Protocol for a Mixed-Method Investigation of the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Gambling Practices, Experiences and Marketing in the UK: The “Betting and Gaming COVID-19 Impact Study”. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(22):8449.

Wardle H, Donnachie C, Critchlow N, Brown A, Bunn C, Dobbie F, Gray CM, Mitchell D, Purves R, Reith G, Stead M, Hunt K. The impact of the initial Covid-19 lockdown upon regular sports bettors in Britain: Findings from a cross-sectional online study. Addictive Behaviors. 2021; 118: 106876.


Hunt K, Wardle H, Critchlow N, Reith G, Purves R, Stead M, Dobbie F, Gray C, Bunn C, Donnachie C. Transitions to more harmful forms of gambling during Covid-19 pandemic: behaviours and targeted marketing in young people and bettors on sport. ESRC: £580,485. 1/6/20 – 30/11/21.