Double digit growth for UK online gambling but wider industry shows more modest gains

  • Gambling Commission report finds online gambling sector increased by 1.5 percent since 2016
  • Gross gambling yield from online casinos worth $3.5 billion in the year to March 2017.

A report by the UK Gambling Commission shows that the UK gambling industry continues to grow modestly, with online in particular faring well.

More growth for the UK online casino industry. It represents about a third of UK gambling overall.
The UK online casino industry continues to grow, with online gambling now accounting for 34% of gambling in the UK

The Commission collates gambling industry figures from returns made by regulated gambling companies and releases the results twice a year, in May and November. The latest figures show that the UK industry earned Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) of £13.77 ($18.44) billion between April 2016 and March 2017.

The latest GGY figure represents a 1.5 percent increase on the previous April to March numbers, and the Commission’s report makes clear that this growth has been driven to a significant extent by the continuing expansion of the remote gambling sector – or online gambling as it is commonly referred.

Remote gambling, which includes sports betting, bingo and casino games, attracted £4.7 ($6.33) billion in revenue during the period; an increase of 10.1 percent on the 2015-16 figure.

Based on GGY, remote gambling is the largest sector of the UK gambling industry and now accounts for a 34 percent market share, an increase of 1.5 percent.

Online casino

Within the remote gambling sector, the largest market share is taken up by online casinos. They accounted for 56 percent of the remote gambling market, earning £2.6 ($3.5) billion of GGY during the period of the report, with £1.7 ($2.29) billion coming from online casino slots gaming and £414 ($557) million being generated by table games.

Online card games accounted for £205 ($276) million and peer to peer poker earned GGY of £101 ($136) million.

Online betting has the next largest share of the remote gambling market at £1.74 ($2.43) billion, representing 37.1 percent, with bingo, betting exchange and pools betting making up the remainder of the remote sector.

The continuing growth of online gaming was also reflected by a significant increase in the number of customers. Active remote betting accounts increased from 23.05 million in 2015-16 to 28.87 million in 2016-17 while the number of new customer registrations increased by 28.7 percent to 31.85 million in the year ending March 2017.

Betting shop decline

Outside the flourishing remote sector, the picture was not so positive for the UK industry, with the number of betting shops, bingo premises and licensed arcades declining, along with the size of the betting industry workforce.

Between April 2016 and March 2017, there were 106,236 people employed in the industry – a decrease of 1 percent on the previous year. The number of licensed arcades in the UK fell by 5.1 percent, while the betting shop sector declined by 3.9 percent, leaving 8,502 betting shops in operation as of March this year. The total number of bingo premises also fell, to 583.

In defiance of this trend, the overall number of gaming machines operating in the UK industry increased by 1.8 percent to 182,916 in March 2017, although with the ongoing government consultation on reducing the maximum stake of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) looming on the horizon, it is not clear whether this growth in gaming machine numbers will be sustained into 2018.

Good causes

The report contains bad news for the National Lottery. There was a dramatic 16.9 percent decline in the contributions to good causes made by the Lottery in 2016-17, a development that has already prompted Lottery franchise holders Camelot to announce a shake-up of the Lottery product, including the introduction of new games and an easier-to-win jackpot.

The Commission’s findings also highlight concerns over problem gambling, particularly in the remote sector. In the year 2016-17, this sector accounted for 1,148,806 self-exclusions or 95.5 percent of the total industry self-exclusions.

The remote gambling industry also saw 55,646 instances of people gambling without being able to verify their age, accounting for three-quarters of all underage gambling incidents in the UK industry.

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