The United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission (UKGC) has published its latest statistics concerning the state of the gambling industry. The regulator’s data shows that the retail sector is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic but the online vertical continues to be more popular.
COVID Changed How People Gamble
The UKGC estimates that there are around 15 million active gamblers in Britain who play with one or more of the licensed operators. This number has hardly changed since the beginning of the pandemic. However, COVID-19 affected the sector in other ways, changing how people interact with operators.
Although the average gamblers are men aged 25 to 34, the pandemic narrowed the gender gap as many men restricted their participation. As a result, certain verticals grew more popular with women, including instant win games, lotteries and slot machines.
The latest data shows that overall participation remains lower than the pre-pandemic levels, although some people have begun returning to retail gambling. Despite that, online gambling continues to be faster-growing and more popular. The change, according to the UKGC, reflects the overall change in lifestyle of the average Brit.
Online Gambling Is Increasingly Popular
In September, the commission surveyed players in the country and found out that 18% of adults played online – a number that equaled the number of retail bettors. This is a huge change from five years ago when people playing in person outnumbered online players two to one. Online gambling’s rise to dominance was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic when many retail players entered the sector because of the quarantine. As a result, the share of GGY generated by online gambling also increased from 42% of the total GGY in 2015-16 to 61% in 2021-22 (figures exclude the National Lottery).
Despite everything, retail gambling continues to enjoy a lot of popularity thanks to verticals such as horse racing and slot machines. However, the popularity of these disciplines has vastly decreased over the past two decades, leading to lower levels of GGY as well. According to the UKGC, retail gambling was responsible for 20% of the total GGY in 2021-22 (excluding the National Lottery). The regulator also noted that retail participation in 2022 was higher than the figures recorded in 2021, demonstrating a noticeable post-COVID recovery of the sector.
How Online Gambling Affects the Sector
Online gambling has revolutionized gaming. Its many advantages include faster delivery speeds that allow more content to hit the market in shorter amounts of time. In addition, mobile gaming has allowed people to play anywhere at any time. A survey from 2021 showed that 30% of online bettors have bet in-play in the last four weeks.
Online gambling also allowed companies to implement a higher degree of customization, allowing customers to enjoy content that is tailored to their needs. However, this is a double-edged sword as it also exposes vulnerable players to harm. In addition, online gambling can be done in private, which further encourages compulsive gamblers.
While Britain has fairly low problem gambling rates compared to other markets, gambling harm continues to be a hotly discussed topic. The UKGC noted that hundreds of thousands of gamblers have been negatively affected by their gambling. Young men are especially vulnerable, the regulator concluded.