UK Online Betting and Gaming Sector Was Booming Before Coronavirus Spike

The latest UK Gambling Commission report shows that online betting and gaming were on the up long before coronavirus changed the game.

Statistics

The latest UK online betting and gaming report shows that activity was on the rise before coronavirus struck. (Image: HIP Wallpaper)

The stats were published at the end of May and cover the UK gambling industry’s performance pre-coronavirus.

Even without the recent rise in online activity, the remote betting and gaming sector saw combined growth of 20% between October 2018 and September 2019.

Online Gaming Leads Latest Upswing

Online casino and poker operators generated 3.9% more income in the latest accounting period, compared to the year from April 2018 to March 2019. The £3.2 billion/$3.9 billion in revenue makes it the most profitable online vertical in the UK.

It was online bingo that enjoyed the biggest surge. The £198 million/$244 million generated between September 2018 and October 2019 was 12.5% more than April 2018 to March 2019.

Rounding out the report is online sports betting. Like its counterparts, the vertical enjoyed a 4.3% upswing, with revenue topping £2.1 billion/$2.6 billion.

While it’s been good news for online betting and gaming companies, things weren’t so hot offline. The number of betting shops in the UK fell 9.6% to 9,745. These closures were due, in part, to changes related to fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

New laws limiting the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2/$2.40 came into effect in March 2019. Customers were previously able to wager up to £100/$120 per round.

Bookmakers warned that the restrictions would result in betting shop closures and, looking at the stats, they were right. FOBT revenue was down 46.4% during the accounting period.

With revenue from the betting terminals previously topping £13 billion/$16 billion, the impact has been significant. In fact, the sharp decrease has forced operators to put more resources into their online interests.

UK Operators Were Adapting Before Coronavirus Lockdowns

Companies like William Hill, which previously put more stock in betting shops, are now upping their presence online. These efforts have paid off for the UK’s online betting and gaming sector.

Despite a drop in earnings for live venues, the industry as a whole only suffered a 0.5% decrease in revenue. Given the changes to FOBTs, that will be seen as a win for all concerned.

The next UKGC report will almost certainly show greater gains for the remote sector due to coronavirus lockdowns. A YouGov survey recently revealed a “shift in the market as a result of Covid-19,” according to UKGC chief executive Neil McArthur. Of those surveyed, 2.2% said they’d tried online casino games or poker for the first time during lockdown.

This data tallies with findings from GGPoker, which showed a marked increase in the number of Google searches for terms such as “rules of poker.” All of this adds up to a bright future, not just for remote operators in the UK, but for the world at large.

Even before the global pandemic, more people were starting to choose online betting and gaming over comparable offline alternatives. Now, with a “new normal” looming, the rate of change will only be accelerated.

Daniel Smyth
Written by
Daniel Smyth
The former Strategy Editor at WPT Magazine has bluffed his way through the poker community producing feature pieces, crafting strategy articles, and reporting on daily happenings from the gaming industry. As CardsChat's ROW correspondent, Smyth covers gaming and poker news outside the US.

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