Sharing our latest evidence about changes in the gambling landscape

Sharing our latest evidence about changes in the gambling landscape


Around 15 million people gamble on products licensed under the Gambling Act 2005 in Great Britain, around the same number of people who have visited a museum or gallery in person at least once in the last year, according to the Government’s Participation Survey. The number of men and women gambling was different because of the Pandemic.

Following the publication of our latest Industry Statistics, we are reflecting on the shape and size of the gambling industry in Great Britain.

The latest Industry Statistics were published in November.

Approximately 15 million people gamble on products licensed under the Gambling Act 2005 in Great Britain, around the same number of people who have visited a museum or gallery in person at least once in the last year, according to the Government’s Participation Survey.

It’s important that the gambling sector isn’t always considered a uniform sector from an industry or consumer perspective.

Products used by a wide range of consumers are included in the gambling sector we regulate. Consumers play on different products, for different experiences, in person and online at the same time. Our research shows that people gamble for a variety of reasons, from an opportunity to socialize to a chance to relax. Something engaged in by the mainstream can be a niche activity.

The context around it also has an impact on it. Sometimes this is by adjacent sectors such as those that are also classified as gambling, such as the National Lottery, or products that have gambling-like mechanics such as loot-boxes. The current cost of living crisis is one example of a macro trends that impact everything around us. Certain recent trends and risks driven by the nature of gambling products are clear, even though this can make it a complex landscape to unpick or generalise.

There are trends in spending and participation in gambling

Until the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the number of people gambling and the associated Gross Gambling Yield had been relatively static.

Headline level participation for products under the Gambling Act 2005 had been stable at around 32 percent of the adult population between the year of 2005 and the year of 2019. When the Gambling Act 2005 was introduced, it was clear that gambling was more popular with men than it was with women. The 25 to 34 year olds were most likely to participate in gambling.

For the year to March 2021, GGY relating to products under the Gambling Act 2005 fell by around 16 percent. The number of men and women gambling was the same, but the number of men decreased while the number of women increased. Society lotteries, scratchcards, fruit and slot machines in arcades, and the National Lottery instant win games were more popular with females than with males. Compared to other age groups, the rate of gambling by the 25 to 34 year old group decreased significantly.

The percentage of the adult population who gambles is still lower than it was before Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. There are signs of a return to gambling among males in retail, as well as among younger age groups. The industry GGY for products under the Gambling Act 2005 is 2 percent below pre-pandemic levels.

See also  The IG Group reported record profits

The move towards online gambling is happening

The movement of consumers to online has been a gradual and consistent trend which continued through the Pandemic, but spend appears to have increased more quickly than the increase in consumers.

The shift to online play is the most significant change in the gambling landscape. Technology and globalization have meant that gambling is no longer limited to opening hours and local events, but instead a 24 hours 7 days a week opportunity and global event-driven marketplace.

It is not surprising that there has been a gradual switch from people gambling in person to choosing to gamble online with 94 percent of United Kingdom adults having access to the internet in 2021. The increase in online grocery shopping, as well as the rising popularity of digital-only banks, are similar to changes seen in other sectors.

Five years before in person rates were double online participation rates, the proportion of adults gambling online was equal to the proportion of people gambling in person. The online gambling participation rate has not yet reached the level of in person participation before the Pandemic, which was 24.4 percent in 2019.

The National Lottery saw a shift from retail to online play during the pandemic period. The long-term gradual increase in online participation, rather than a spike, continued for products under the Gambling Act 2005. During the period, the increase was mainly driven by women, from 13.2 percent in September 2019 to 17.2 percent in September 2022. For the last four years, there has been no increase in male participation.

There has been an increase in the share of GGY generated from online gambling, from 42 percent in the year of 2016 to 61 percent in the year of 2020. In terms of product, there has been significant growth in the GGY generated by online slots over the course of the last two years, from just over 1 billion in the year of 2016 to over 3 billion in the year of 2020. The rate of increase in spending has always been higher than the rate of participation.

Retail gambling has a lot of popularity

Although the popularity of gambling in person has declined over time, it still remains a significant part of the sector and is showing signs of recovery.

In 2007, horse racing and slot machines were the most popular gambling activities for 17 percent of UK adults and 14 percent of UK adults, respectively. The proportion of people who bet on horses in retail was lower than in person slot machines, according to the Health Survey for England 2018).

The level of GGY has decreased due to the decline in retail participation and the decrease in retail betting and bingo. Retail is still a significant contributor to the level of gambling activity, retail betting on its own accounted for 20 percent of the total GGY in 2021-22.

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 of 2022, particularly amongst males and younger adults up to the age of 24 years old.

There is online gambling as a digital sector

In terms of consumer expectations and operator delivery, online gambling is a part of the wider digital eco-system.

See also  Arizona betting handle goes down again in June

Gambling and online are both part of the digital sector, rather than being separate from retail premises.

The consumer expectation of play that matches experience in other sectors is one of the reasons for the change. This can be seen most clearly in the move to mobile. According to data from Ofcom, adult internet users in the UK spend four hours online per day, with three of those hours spent on their phones. Sixty percent of online gamblers use a mobile phone to gamble, according to data from the Commission’s online tracker survey.

Digital has transformed product delivery, in terms of speed and volume of products to market, as well as the potential for non-traditional operators to get involved in the sector. Mobile technology has enabled the transformation of traditional ‘destination gambling’ (like betting and bingo) to function in a similar way to instant win games in terms of ease and/or convenience of play. Three in ten online bettors had bet in-play in the last seven days, with a further 30 percent of online bettors having done so in the last four weeks, according to our online survey.

Digital has transformed the way in which operators engage with consumers, whether that is as a brand or as how they apply marketing in a personal, targeted way. Every year, this is getting more refined and data-powered. Nearly half of Great British consumers say they would like it if recommendations were tailored to what they like and are interested in, according to a survey. Young people who engage in similar spaces, even if they can’t transact, can be impacted by this. Risk to vulnerable individuals can be brought about by increased personalisation.

The sector supply chain is growing in complexity and includes the likes of big data suppliers, test houses, authentication and fraud detection and advanced human and/or machine interface.

The removal of environmental barriers of retail gambling has impacted the visibility and convenience of gambling behavior. It can be done without being watched.

Problem gambling and gambling can be a problem

Many people are dealing with issues with their gambling.

The measurement of problem gambling and harms is complex, but we know that hundreds of thousands of gamblers are suffering negative consequences from their gambling.

The headline rates for problem gambling have not changed in recent years, despite the fact that the gambling landscape has changed fundamentally.

We know that some people are more likely to experience harm than others, including those who engage in multiple activities, men with probable mental health issues and players with the highest gambling expenditure. Young adults may be particularly vulnerable to gambling related harms due to a combination of biological, situational and environmental factors. Young adults are most at risk of falling into problem gambling around the age of 20 to 21, according to an analysis of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Many young adults are adjusting to new freedoms such as moving out of home and managing their own finances during this time.

The last update was on 24 November 2022.