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How did COVID-19 change the way people play online poker?

At the beginning of 2020, it was hard to believe life could change in the blink of an eye. But here we are, a year after COVID-19 came into our lives, adjusting to new routines and social norms.

This year, not only did we have to learn how to interact with others despite social distancing and quarantine, but we also had to find new sources of entertainment. As land-based casinos closed their doors for numerous months, mobile poker and online venues became more popular than ever.

But now that many countries are reopening brick-and-mortar venues, it is important to understand whether the industry has changed. How did the past 12 months affect gambling patterns? Have people gambled more than ever before? And will players be inclined to flock to real poker rooms or keep placing bets online? Let's see what experts have to say.

What Experts Have to Say About Changing Gambling Behaviors

When it became clear that COVID-19 will have lasting effects on our behavior, a few scientists from Sweden decided to explore how the pandemic might affect gambling patterns.

Anders Håkansson and Carolina Widinghoff, associated with the Department of Clinical Sciences in Lund University, specifically the psychiatry department, published two papers discussing the matter. They first reviewed potential changes to betting behavior at the beginning of the year, re-investigating the matter nine months into the pandemic.

So, what were their conclusions? How did poker players change in the past year?

In the past, 60% of the general population reported gambling in a single year. 75% tried their luck with lotteries, 50% with chance-based games, 5% checked out casino gambling, and 4% enjoyed poker. Most people placed bets at gambling shops (48%), mobile devices (29%), computers (19%), and lastly – tablets (9%).

After conducting an online survey back in April, gathering the opinions of 2,000 people, the scientists came to some interesting conclusions. 45% of the participants reported they spent more time at home during this time, but only 4% reported gambling more than before the COVID-19 crisis. Actually, 7% reported gambling less, and the rest of the participants either haven't gambled at all or stick to previous gambling habits.

And among those who did gamble during the pandemic, 59% were men, 77% reported being more at home, and 13% were at risk of problem gambling.

A few months later, in November 2020, the experts published the survey again, changing the questionnaire a bit. Yet again, gambling patterns mostly remained the same, with 6% reporting they gambled more, 4% saying they played less often, and 54% haven't changed their gambling patterns.

91% of the participants reported they haven't tried any new gambling options during the pandemic. But those who did were mainly attracted to online horse betting and sports betting (3% each), online casinos (3%), and online poker (1%).

Out of those who did start gambling during the COVID-19 crisis, the proportion of at-risk players and problem gamblers was much higher than reported in the first survey.

Looking at this data, you can see that even though the number of online poker players hasn't increased as much as was first believed.

However, those who were only recently introduced to the gambling world, are more at risk of developing a gambling problem. That is something countries should address in their gambling regulations, to protect players from making life-changing mistakes.

Did You Change Your Betting Habits?

Many people were affected by the pandemic, online poker players included. While many people stuck to previous gambling routines, some placed bets more often – which is something to take into account.

How has COVID-19 affected your poker play?