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Glenn Barry

Massive Decline in Interest in On-line Gambling

21 June 1998

Home Internet use has surged in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics report released June 11th 1998.

Some 1.1 million Australians are now logging onto the Internet from the comfort of their homes. 13 Percent (850,000 households) of all Australian homes now have Internet access (at least this was the case in February 1998). Forty-two percent of all Australian homes now have a computer. It is estimated that almost 18 percent to 20 percent of Australian homes will be online by February 1999.

Between February 1996 and February 1998, the growth in home connection was 258 percent. The Internet in Australia is generally following the US pattern, but it's about a year to 18 months behind. It is difficult to compare this study to many in the US due to the vastly differing methods used to assess the size of the market.

The study reports a general increase in interest in on-line shopping (up 13 percent to 3.2 million people since Feb. 1996) and online banking (up 16 percent to 4.6 million people since 1996). The surprise in the statistics is that interest in online gambling has declined by a massive 35.5 percent.

Given the very high level of publicity online gambling has had in Australia in recent times, and the general positive approach of the state governments towards cybergambling, this may, or indeed may not be, a surprising outcome.

Normally, one might expect an increase in awareness and indeed availability (Australian has now had legal online gambling of certain kinds for almost two years), of online gambling would increase the level of interest in playing, out of curiosity if nothing else.

Now, it is possible that the publicity (most of it negative) has, in fact, turned people off the idea. It is not only online gambling which has been worked over by the media, but the most common payment method. Internet credit card fraud stories seem to be continuous and there may be a rub off coming from that direction, (contradicted by the increase in interest in on-line shopping).

Indeed it is always possible that there could be an aberration in the sample. When we inquired with the government statistician we were told that this was indeed always a possibility when the sample was small. The apparent dramatic change did cause them to recheck their figures before releasing them. They say that these latest numbers are accurate in statistical terms, but also say it is best to keep an eye out for the next of these tracking studies to see if this was simply a bump in the statistical road.

The study showed a substantial move in total numbers—as shown in Table 1—and an overall decline of over 1/3 rd when compared with the previous study (down 34.1percdnt for males and 35.5 percent for females).

Table 1
Change in Interest in On-line Gambling by Persons 18 and over.

% Change 1996 1998
Males: -34.1% 504,000 332,000
Females: -35.4% 195,000 126,000
All People: -34.5% 699,000 458,000

Now, the study showed a general increase in interest in other online services (shopping up 13 percent and banking up 16 percent), so it seems that those surveyed have a firm grip on what is being talked about.

By age group (table 2), the survey shows no surprises.

Table 2
Interest in On-line Gambling by Persons 18 and over by Age Group 1998.

Age Number Percent
18-24 71,000 3.9
25-39 166,000 3.9
40-54 158,000 4.2
55+ 62,000 1.7

It appears that email is still the driving force of home Internet usage; 100 percent of home Internet users say they use email but only 41 percent indicated they used the Internet for other activities. This seems to correspond with information from the major dial up ISPs in Australia, which shows fairly low hours per month on the average home account.

One of the large Australian ISPs, Ozemail, say that the average time online is seven hours per month, some 1 ¾ hours per week. That amounts to little more than 15 minutes per day, or about the time it would take to receive and send email twice a day. This seems to indicate that only a comparatively small percentage of the population are 'surfing' or staying on line long enough to have a play session at a cybercasino.

This low level of 'surfing' or solid online usage in the home seems to be a fact that the online gambling industry will have to consider when it comes to 'play' games as distinct from 'betting' games where only a quick log on and log off is required.

You can get a copy of this (and other studies in the series) by emailing The current report is $17.50 AUD. The name of the report is "Household Use of Information Technology, Australia 1998" (Catalogue number 8128.00).

Massive Decline in Interest in On-line Gambling is republished from
Glenn Barry
Glenn Barry