Year in Review: Industry overcomes regulatory hurdles

As the year draws to a close and the betting sector prepares for an exciting 2019, SBC is looking back on 12 months that was filled with innovation, regulation and an abundance of landmark moments.

The Gambling Commission released its biannual report for September 2018, detailing the latest statistics in the gambling industry from throughout the year. The report covered betting shops, bingo, gaming machine manufacturers, lotteries, and remote gambling.

The aim of the report, which followed the one published in March 2018 was to give a brief overview of the gambling industry as a whole, and to analyse any changes in the sector throughout the year.

2018 has been a year whereby more stringent regulations have been imposed on both online and land-based operators. Legislation regarding advertising for betting operators, the announced changes to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and changes to Remote Gaming duty have all rocked the betting industry during the last 12 months.

The report announced that despite the changes, the Great Britain gambling industry continues to thrive, with the gross gambling yield totalling £14.4 billion in the year April 2017-March 2018, a 4.2 per cent increase on the previous year.

But as the GGY for the industry as a whole has increased, operators have come under fire from government officials as they announced that the maximum stakes placed at FOBTs would be cut from £100 to £2. The move aims to ensure social responsibility while also maintaining contribution to the economy.

As a result of the announcement, betting operators were forced to implement cut-back measures to mitigate the impact of the changes that are set to be introduced in April 2019. 151 high street betting shops have been closed, and there has been a drop of 0.5 per cent in the number of gaming machines between March and September this year.

Operators such as ARC announced their prediction that 1,000 stores will close as a result of FOBT changes, meanwhile independent betting stores also suffered in 2018, as 25 operators were forced to shut-up shop.

A spokesperson for the Association for British Bookmakers stated that: “Recent announcements by major operators reveal the true impact of this decision, that thousands of betting shops will close and there will be thousands of job losses. Betting shops are now focused on the future of their staff, customers and suppliers.”

Conversely, employment figures within the industry have continued to rise, with 107,940 employees working within the UK gambling industry, an increase of 0.6% from March 2017.

The casino industry enjoyed growth, albeit small, as two more casinos were licensed to open since last year.

While there has been a 2.5 per cent decrease in casino attendance, there has been an increase in the number of people playing casino games online, having generated revenues of £171.4 million as of September 2018.

The remote gambling sector has significantly grown this year, seeing a 4.2 per cent increase in GGY since last year, now estimated at £14.4 billion. The sector now holds 37.1 per cent of the total industry, and is continuing to grow as more betting operators are seeking to develop mobile betting apps. The development in the mobile sector comes as the government has announced a crack-down on TV advertising in the industry.

Operators have been restricted in showing advertisements promoting betting services during live sporting events, as well as for periods of time before and after the event. The decision to implement this has forced operators to diversify their marketing techniques, resulting in a wider range of mobile apps and use of push notifications.

Bingo operators have suffered during the year, with 11 bingo halls closing down between March and September, now making the total number of premises 644. Unlike the non-remote betting sector, the majority of bingo halls are now owned by independent operators.

Despite the closures, some bingo operators have enhanced their mobile and online presence to continue attracting audiences. Newly rebranded Buzzbingo.com launched its online portal this year, which will aim to offer an alternative to the traditional bingo hall.

The shifts towards online bingo and online betting reflects the general retail behaviour in the UK as more customers are moving towards online shopping. The phenomenon is affecting a number of industries, and will continue to do so into 2019.

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