uk gambling commission (UKGC)

UKGC: retail betting recovering but online dominance continues

UK betting and gaming volume is continuing to recover from the turbulence of 2020-21 at a steady pace, according to the latest UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) data. 

The regulator stated that the total gross gambling yield for the whole British gambling sector, including lottery, stood at £14.1bn between April 2021 and March 2022. 

This represents a 10.9% increase from April 2020-March 2021 (£12.5bn), but still a marginal decline of 0.8% on pre-pandemic levels of £14.2bn.

When the results of the UKGC’s last survey into gambling participation are factored in, this is unsurprising, as these figures also showed that although engagement is up, it is still below the levels experienced before the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in 2021 and products and opportunities to gamble are available to consumers again, the overall percentage of the adult population who gamble remains lower than it was pre-COVID-19,” the Commission detailed.

“However, there are signs of a return to gambling amongst younger age groups aged 16 to 24 and amongst males gambling in retail. Industry GGY in 2021-22 for products under the Gambling Act 2005 is just 2% below what it was pre-pandemic.”

On a sector-by-sector basis, total land-based GGY – for betting shops, casinos, bingo halls and arcades – rose by 110.5% from 2020-21 to £3.5bn in 2021-22.

This was, however, largely due to the closure of such venues during pandemic lockdowns, and still represented a 21.5% decrease on 2019-20 GGY of £2.7bn.

Despite this, the UKGC maintained that retail is still a “significant contributor to the level of gambling activity”, accounting for 20% of cross-industry yield for the latest financial year.

The confidence many still have in the sector is also apparent when looking at the active expansion plans of some firms, such as BoyleSports – which continued its high-street rollout this week with the opening of two new shops.

“Additionally, while there were concerns from the industry that the pandemic would have a significant negative impact on the retail landscape, in-person participation in gambling has increased in September 2022 compared to September 2021, particularly amongst males and younger adults up to the age of 24 years old,” the Commission continued.

Bricks-and-mortar is resilient, according to the regulator, but the shift towards online is apparently an unstoppable trend after the blow of the pandemic.

Although the quarterly telephone survey revealed that the proportion of British adults gambling in-person and online was equal at 18%, the number of betting shops has fallen by 19.1 since 31 March 2020 from 7,406 outlets to 6,219 and the number of gaming premises in general (including casinos, arcades etc) by 17.1% from 9,845 venues to 8,408.

Online gambling’s contribution far outweighed that of retail, standing at 61% for the 2021-22 year – excluding National Lottery sales, but the UKGC noted a “long-term gradual increase in online participation” for the lottery.

Total GGY for remote betting, bingo and casino sector stood at £6.4bn – in contrast to the retail segment, this marked a decline of 6.2% on 2020-2021 figures, but a 12.4% increase on 2019-20, showing a bounceback from pre-COVID levels and a clear slow down over the past year. 

On a product basis, slots proved to be the key revenue driver for the UK’s online gaming space, having generated £3bn in 2021, with the regulator adding that “the rate of increase in spend has always been higher than that of participation”.

As the UKGC itself put it: “The biggest change in the gambling landscape is a shift to online play, reflecting our lifestyles in general. 

“Technology and globalisation have meant that gambling is no longer confined to opening hours and largely local events, but instead a 24 hours seven days a week opportunity and global event-driven marketplace.”

SBC News UKGC: retail betting recovering but online dominance continues

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