It’s one of the most amazing business success stories of the last couple of decades. From a standing start, in this time the online gambling and casino industry in the UK has rocketed to being the single biggest generator of gambling revenue – and the trend shows no sign of slowing down.
The latest figures from the Gambling Commission – the body that oversees the activity in the UK – show that at £5.7 billion from the period between April 2019 and March 2020 this accounted for around 40% of the £14.2 billion gross gambling yield.
Even more remarkable is the fact that the online gambling figure shows a year-on-year increase of 8.1% while the overall yield from all forms of gambling has seen a fall of 0.6%.
Globally, the figures, and the growth of online gambling, are even more impressive. In 2019 it was estimated to be worth £43 billion and by 2023 this figure is projected to rise to around £67 billion.
Driven by sports
The origins of the online gambling sector lay in the traditional online casino. With their offering of casino games like roulette and blackjack, as well as the ever-popular slots, these are what first attracted players.
Many were encouraged to start playing thanks to incentives and followed the very wise move to only trust casino offers from trusted casino sites. These generally take the form of free spins on selected slots games as well as deposit matching up to a maximum possible level.
But there is another form of online gambling that is fast catching up with online casinos and this is sports betting.
In the UK, at least, this has always been a popular pastime with football and horse racing being the most favored sports to bet on. Traditionally, much of this betting has been done in high street bookmakers.
However, a number of factors have led to many of these closing down over the last few years. For example, in October 2018 there were around 10,700 licensed betting shops across the UK but by November 2019 this figure had dropped to 9,745.
Much of this was down to the increased ease and greater convenience of online betting, as we’ll shortly expand upon – and it also happened against the exciting backdrop of events in the US.
The end of the US ban
For many years, sports betting in the US was illegal. But, following a long campaign led by New Jersey along with some other interested states, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that it should be left to the individual state’s law makers to decide whether the ban should be upheld or overturned.
Some of the fiercest opponents of sports betting had previously been the major leagues including the NFL, the NBA and the MLB. But, following the court’s ruling, most have embraced the prospect of sports betting with open arms.
To date, 36 states have made sports betting legal with a number of others currently going through the process. Individual sports franchises and teams have also embraced the practice, with many joining up in partnerships with official betting partners.
The fact that actual betting is not allowed in stadiums themselves has also proved to be a positive thing for the operators of online sportsbooks who are allowed to advertise their services where the games are being played and encourage online betting instead.
As sports betting has steadily gathered momentum in the country, a number of the bigger operators have also been looking to the UK where they feel the real expertise lies. In turn, this has led to at least one major takeover deal being made, surely with many others to follow.
Other factors fuelling growth
Turning back to the UK, it’s thought that there are a number of catalysts that are behind the increasing popularity and importance of sports betting. This has seen a considerable increase not just in the yield being generated but also in the number of adults gambling.
Going back to 2015, research discovered that 17% of people took part in the activity. By 2021 this figure has risen to 24% suggesting that it’s gradually becoming a central part of many people’s lives.
A key driver for this increase in player numbers is the sheer number of sports that it’s possible to bet on today. Most sportsbooks will not just have the traditional favorites like football and horseracing, there could also be anything from table tennis to taekwondo. So, it stands to reason that an even wider range of fans will be keen to make their top sports a little more involving by betting money on the outcome.
Then there’s the question of convenience. Along with the broader trend that has seen phones and tablets overtaking PCs as a way to access the internet, all major sportsbooks are also mobile-friendly. This allows frictionless betting, and also applies to all other forms of online gambling.
It’s also definitely true that the growth of big, recognisable brands has helped to increase trust amongst players, as have the activities of the Gambling Commission who always act quickly to clamp down on the few rogue operators out there.
Looking to the future
So, this has all combined to create the ideal conditions for the online gambling industry in general to go from strength to strength.
It’s even possible that the already optimistic predictions could turn out to be underestimates.
If they do, this will certainly make the operators very happy indeed, while bringing even more choice and entertainment to millions of online players worldwide.