In the United Kingdom (UK), gambling is a popular activity. Around the same number of people gamble at least once a year as visit a museum or art gallery over the same period.
This gambling activity covers a range of areas, including the National Lottery, land-based casinos and betting shops, and online casinos and sportsbooks.
As an example of the current position, across this gambling landscape, during December 2022, around 44% of peoplesaid they had gambled on at least one activity at least once in the previous four weeks. So, there is no doubt that gambling is a major industry in the UK. Another thing that is becoming increasingly apparent is the growth of online gambling.
The move toward online gambling
The move towards gambling online reflects the wider situation with the use of technology in the modern world. Using this technology has enabled globalisation and made it easier to connect with individuals and organisations. In many cases, this connection is available throughout the day. This 24/7 access is certainly the case for many of the top online casinos.
In the UK, access to these casinos is made easier by the penetration of Internet usage in the country. Its penetration rate is one of the highest in the world, with around 62.86 million monthly users in 2021. By 2026, this figure is expected to reach 65 million users per month. Given the number of people who have access to the Internet in the UK, it’s little wonder that those who enjoy gambling are choosing to do so online more often. For example, in September 2022, according to figures from a Gambling Commission survey, around 18% of adults said they gambled online. This percentage was the same as that for those who said they gambled in person. Five years earlier, the number of people gambling in person was almost twice the number gambling online.
There has also been an increase in the percentage of gross gambling yield (GGY) from online gambling in recent years. In 2015/16, this percentage was 42%, whereas, in 2021/22, it was 61% (with the National Lottery excluded). Online slot games, in particular, saw a significant increase in the amount of GGY they produced over the same period, from £1.6 billion in 2015-16 to almost £3 billion in 2021-22.
Looking at more recent data from the Gambling Commission shows us that online slot games continue to play a big part in the GGY of the UK gambling industry. This data includes figures from the period March 2020 to December 2022. We are going to concentrate on the elements of this data that refer to online casinos, including the use of online slot machines.
A year-on-year comparison between Quarter 3 in 2021/22 and 2022/23
The figures we use in this comparison come from the Gambling Commission and refer to providers that are licensed to provide gambling services in the UK by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). These UKGC-licensed providers are registered with GAMSTOP, which allows players who are concerned about gambling to self-exclude from each site at once. Many people in the UK choose to gamble at sites that are not part of the GAMSTOP program or registered in the UK. Figures for these casinos are not included in this article.
Figures for online casinos that are included in Gambling Commission data confirm the growth of online slots play with an increase in total bets or spins of 8% when comparing quarter 3 in 2021/22 and 2022/23. The average monthly spend also increased, by 13% when comparing the two periods. In addition, the number of slots sessions increased by 21%, and the average number of slots sessions lasting longer than one hour increased by 11%, although the average length of sessions overall decreased by two minutes to 17 minutes.
Overall, the online casino industry in the UK has grown in recent years, helped by the emergence of technology such as the Internet. This growth continues as the number of people gambling online now starts to overtake the number gambling in person. This increase in number is reflected by the fact that the percentage of GGY from online gambling is now higher than the percentage from in person gambling.
An Analysis of the Current Online Casino Landscape in the UK