Just like what any country would do to help its citizens in times of crisis, Australia has allocated funds to affected residents during the coronavirus pandemic. They gave social security recipients and pensioners a one-time payment of A$750 ($474) on the first week of April, in the hopes of boosting consumer spending. Indeed there was a definite spike in spending - most especially at online gambling sites.
According to research data collected by analytics group AlphaBeta and credit firm Illion, and published by The Sydney Morning Herald, online gambling spend in Australia was up at around 67% between March 30 and April 5 compared to before the pandemic struck - the biggest boost for any sector of the economy. This meant that over the first week of April alone, Aussies spent more time on online gambling than they would normally do.
Due to the absence of sports events to bet on, the researchers were surprised at their results as it limited bets to casino-style games.
Of course, online gambling was not the only sector to benefit from this global epidemic situation. Food delivery, home improvement, online retail and even various subscription services experienced boosted sales of at least 60%, with other essentials like pharmacies, supermarkets and pet care stores also enjoying increased sales, as did tobacco and alcohol sales.
Unsurprisingly, fitness and travel sectors were some of the hardest-hit parts of the economy, with fitness groups and gyms suffering a staggering 95% loss in revenue.
The results were based on a sample of transactions from approximately 250,000 Australian consumers.
AlphaBeta director Andrew Charlton, who served as an economic adviser to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the past, said, "This shows us, once again, that stimulus measures really work, this time with great real-time data. Over the coming weeks, we'll see whether this is a permanent support, or just a temporary reprieve."
Online Gambling with Alcohol Spend worries Experts
While things are looking up in terms of sales in essential sectors of the economy, some Australian experts are concerned regarding the rise in online gambling and alcohol spending.
Addiction expert at Edith Cowan University Dr. Stephen Bright said, "People drink more when they're stressed and anxious. You might be thinking smart before you've had a few drinks. But after a couple, you think, ‘I'll chuck a couple of hundred on and see what happens."
Australia does not legally allow online casino and poker sites, but overseas sites are available, and experts are also concerned about the amount spent on play-money apps. Also more worrisome is online sports betting, which is legal in the country and remains available even amid the worldwide cessation of most major sports leagues.
A spokesperson of TAB, a racing and sports betting website in Australia, said, "With most major sporting leagues around the world cancelled or postponed, interest has shifted to those that remain in operation - such as basketball from Russia or soccer from Belarus - or other non-sporting markets, such as interest rate movements."