Back in 1994, the first online casino in the UK “opened its doors” to the public and in just a few years, there were over 200 casinos. In 2005, gambling became fully legal and casinos were allowed to advertise their service, causing the revenue of the UK online gambling industry to go up significantly.
Fast forward to the present, online gambling is absolutely crucial within the gambling industry in the UK and people can choose among thousands of different casino games fully optimized for mobile phones and tablets. It is safe to say that the future looks optimistic for the UK online gambling market.
The Present State of the UK Online Gambling Market
The UK online gambling industry is doing exceptionally well in 2021, with about 24 million people gambling online monthly. This number accounts for almost half of the UK adult population. To satisfy the demand of people living on this European island, the number of online casinos and gambling companies is quite big. At least 175 online casinos operate within the country and more than 3,600 licenses have been issued by the UK Gambling Commission.
In 2020, online betting and gambling grossed £5.7 billion, which makes up 40% of the entire gambling industry. Online casino games prove to be a big hit among UK citizens, producing a £3.2billion gross gambling yield. The hierarchy of online casino games goes from slots (69%) to roulette (14%) then blackjack (6%).
The rest of the £5.7 billion resulted from online sports betting and bingo. Online sports betting is responsible for £2.3 billion while online bingo only makes up £177 million. When dissecting the sports betting revenue, you will see that football has a huge presence in the market with 46.4% while horse betting follows behind with 28%, after which you have tennis (5%) and dog racing (3.1%).
Demographics of Online Gambling Participants in the UK
Statistics show that online gaming is the most popular among the 35-55 age group. More specifically, 29% of people from 35-44 years old participate in online gambling at least once per month. This figure for the 45-54 age group is only slightly lower at 25%. Seniors of 65+ years old gamble online the least.
Regarding the frequency of gambling, 22.1% of UK online gamblers do it more than 2 days a week. The percentage for people who gamble online once a week to once a month is very similar at 32.2% and 30.8% respectively. In contrast, only 14.9% gamble less than once a month.
In addition, men seem to dominate the online gaming market, with 23% of all UK males gambling online monthly in 2018 compared to 15% of females. Mobile gaming is also on the rise, with over 50% of online gamblers stating they do it through their smartphones.
Most people in the UK are casual instead of serious about online gambling, evident by the average bet per week being only £2.57. In fact, “escape and relaxation” is one of the main 3 reasons why UK residents gamble, the other two being “financial motivation” and “social and competitive side”.
The Effect of Pandemic on the UK Online Gaming Market
While most businesses suffered a big hit from the pandemic, boredom from lockdown in the UK drove more people to online casinos than before. As expected, traditional betting revenue decreased by 26% and physical casinos by 4% in 2020, whereas online gambling experienced an 8% rise.
Most gamblers claimed that the pandemic has no effect on their gambling habit. 12% reported gambling more in lockdown, yet 25% cut down on the wagers they made. The pandemic also couldn’t shake the interest in sports and sports betting alike. Football and horse racing still dominated the market since making a bet remotely was more than easy.
Reasons for the Online Gambling Success in The UK
It’s Cheaper to Gamble Online
Compared to land-based casinos, online gambling websites can offer more competitive odds, give better bonuses and allow players to register with very small deposits. An online casino doesn’t have that large extra cost of renting physical premises or hiring more staff.
The affordability of online casinos goes far beyond this. As many people don’t live near a brick-and-mortar casino, playing in one brings various extra costs, such as travel expenses, food, and even rent.
As long as you have an internet connection, you can spin the slot reels and play cards or roulette in online casinos. They are open 24/7 which is of great convenience. However, the government putting strict restrictions on businesses due to the pandemic made online gambling an even more convenient option. For many months, it was the only possible option gamblers had.
Even though the lively atmosphere of a real casino is hard to replicate, soon after their first visit to an online casino people find out that not having to deal with other people is a huge plus. Online gamblers can simply kick back on their couch, load the game on their phone or laptop, and place bets. The flexibility of online gambling is really hard to beat!
One of the main reasons why online gambling is able to thrive in the UK is the openness of the government towards the industry. Many states in the US restrict online gambling but in the UK, all adults can gamble online. The increased quality of regulators and licensing bodies also helps the industry to be seen as a legitimate business.
Online Casinos Offer a Better Game Variety
Online casinos store their games in the digital space, so there’s no shortage of room compared to the limited space of a physical casino. These online casino gaming catalogs have countless titles from the most reputable studios that can only be found on the Internet.
The online gambling industry is constantly coming up with new ways to improve the players’ experience and design more impressive games, such as exclusive Bitcoin slots, crypto games like Crash and Plinko, or immersive live dealer games.
Better Bonuses and Promotions
Bonuses are the standard marketing practice among both online and land-based casinos, but online gambling websites are providing players with a wide variety of offers land-based casinos are not able to match.
There’s almost always a hefty Welcome Bonus (up to 100% the deposit sometimes) for players making their first deposit and in some cases, there’s even a Sign-Up Bonus that players get to claim by simply creating an account in an online casino. After this, players can enjoy a wide array of incentives such as cashback, free spins, referral bonuses, etc.
The Future of the UK Online Gambling Industry
The online gambling market in the UK is projected to grow by more than $80 billion dollars from 2020 to 2024. New inventions such as live dealer games and the increasing convenience of online gambling will only further draw new customers to the industry. But this is not to say that there aren’t difficulties to be addressed.
The UK Gambling Commission has already banned “feature buys”, which allows players to simply pay extra and trigger the bonus round immediately. This was a controversial decision, and it is believed that a new restriction will soon be implemented regarding the maximum betting limit on online casino games.
These regulations are created with the intention of making online gambling safer, but they may come with a side effects. Some companies are not happy with the new regulations and are considering withdrawing from the UK market.
Since hefty fines will be applied when online casinos don’t follow the rules, it may discourage people from inserting their businesses in the UK market as well. However, the majority of online gambling sites are very willing to implement the new regulations, so this is unlikely to hinder the growth of the UK gambling industry in any significant way.