Why Does the UK Dominate the Online Gambling Industry?

Whenever the topic of online gambling is invoked, one regulated market stands head and shoulders above the rest, the United Kingdom. According to Statista, a leading statistics portal, the UK gambling industry generated a GGY (Gross Gambling Yield) of £14.4 billion in 2018, up markedly from £8.4 billion in 2011. The dramatic uptick in gambling United Kingdom is largely attributed to the phenomenal growth of remote gambling a.k.a. online gambling. From the outset, it should be pointed out that the UK is one of the world's most progressive, inclusive, and forward-thinking online gambling markets. Legal-age players in the UK make no bones about it: they enjoy online gambling games.
UK online gambling legislation is overseen by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), otherwise known as the Great Britain Gambling Commission (GBGC). This government body was created by the Gambling Act 2005 with the express purpose of regulating commercial gambling activity in the United Kingdom. This powerful body oversees the licensing and regulation of the National Lottery (National Lottery Act 1993), as well as online casino, online poker, online bingo, online sports betting, et al.
The Gambling Commission published the Annual Report and Accounts (2018-2019), detailing the performance of the UK regulated gambling market. According to the details of the report, the following points are worthy of mention:
  • There are 8,423 betting shops across the UK, 152 casinos, 650 bingo premises, 181,813 gaming machines, and 1,639 licensed arcades
  • The National Lottery® contributed £1.6 billion to good causes in 2017, £40 billion in contributions to good causes in total since 1994, and approximately 15 million people purchase a lottery ticket in the UK in any 4-week period.
  • The GGY of the Great Britain gambling industry (April 2018 – March 2019) was £14.4 billion, with £5.3 billion representing the total GGY for the remote gaming sector (April 2018 – March 2019). £2.1 billion was generated by the remote casino category (slots games), marking a 5.8% increase from April 2017 – March 2018.
  • The total GGY generated by land-based casinos across Great Britain amounted to £1.1 billion (April 2018 – March 2019).

How Does the United Kingdom Compare to Other Regulated Online Gambling Markets?

If we use the 2018/2019 GGY of the UK online gambling market as our base, the UK generated £5.3 billion in that time. The United States generated substantially less than that in 2018 at approximately $306.5 million, and for 2019 the figure was somewhat higher. Regardless, the sheer value of online gambling in the UK continues to outpace all other markets in a big way.
According to Edison Group’s comprehensive study of the Online Gaming Sector, and published by Edison Investment Research, the total value of the global online gaming market in 2018 was £40 billion (GGR - Gross Gambling Revenue), with a 10% compound annual growth rate over the past decade, expected to increase at a 7% CAGR through 2023. This far outstrips the growth of the land-based gambling market which is growing at a clip of 2% CAGR over the same period.
It is worth pointing out that the size of the total online gambling market (2018 study) is dominated by key components, notably:
The Online Gambling Market
  • Africa 1%
  • Oceana 5%
  • Europe 54%
  • North America 12%
  • Asia/Middle East 27%
  • Latam and Caribbean 1%
The Total Gambling Market
  • Africa 1%
  • Oceana 4%
  • Europe 26%
  • North America 29%
  • Asia/Middle East 38 %
  • Latam and Caribbean 2%
Clearly, the online gambling market is dominated by European players, of which the UK makes up 15% of total online gross gambling revenue. Given that Europe comprises 26% of the entire £347 billion global gambling market, and 54% of the total online gambling market, the UKs contribution is substantial. For online casino players, the logical question is why is the UK dominating this market?

Online Gambling Comprise a Large Component of UK Gambling Yield

For starters, it is worth pointing out that the UKGC readily attests to the high-value of online gambling as part of the overall gambling revenues in the UK. The growth has been phenomenal. The new rules for online gambling in the United Kingdom expressly state that any provider of gambling games must apply for and be approved by the UKGC. Previously, many offshore operators provided games to UK players, particularly from jurisdictions like the Isle of Man, Alderney, the Government of Curaçao, Gibraltar, and Malta.
In an effort to fully regulate and standardize all of the activities of online gambling activity, the UKGC mandates licensing at home. This is done in the interests of player safety, protection of minors, the prevention of money-laundering and terrorist activity, and proper precautions vis-a-vis privacy policies and the protection of data. By carefully monitoring who is playing at regulated online casinos across the UK, thanks to geolocation tracking technology, and account verification procedures, many problems are nipped in the bud. AML, KYC, and taxation-related issues are easily managed with full licensing and regulation.

IBIS World Study of the UK Gambling Market for 2020

IBIS World published an in-depth report about the realities on the ground for the UK online gambling market post Brexit. Key takeaways from the report include the following facts about gambling and betting in the UK (2020 figures):
  • The number of gambling businesses is down to 10,605
  • The gambling industry employs 95,829 people in the UK
  • The annual growth of the gambling industry (2015 – 2020) is up 4.5%
  • The total gambling revenue generated in 2020 is expected to be £15 billion

UK-Based Gambling Platforms Dominate the Global Market

The rapid growth of online casino, online poker, and online sports betting activity globally will certainly give the UK a run for its money. However, the UK remains the standard bearer of excellence when it comes to online gambling platforms. For example, premier UK-based online casinos like 888casino UK set the standard in the US. When the state of New Jersey moved to regulate online casino games in 2013, the Atlantic City-based casinos turned to many UK-based operators such as 888 to deliver powerful gaming platforms for their operators.
888casino UK is owned and operated by 888 Holdings plc, listed on the London Stock Exchange. As a power-player in the industry since 1997, 888casino and its large number of verticals now spans an entire global network in multiple regulated markets. Among the many markets where UK-based gaming giant 888 is now fully operational include the following territories and regions: Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, Romania, Ireland, Gibraltar, Denmark, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Many more countries are fast-tracking the regulation of online gambling activity, and they are opening their markets up to UK-based companies like 888. The fact of the matter is that operators in Great Britain have had extensive experience in managing fully regulated online gambling activity for many years.
How Much Do UK Players Gamble Online?
The BBC ran an op-ed on September 21, 2019 titled, ‘Gambling: How much do we spend in the UK?’ The article indicated that online gambling dominated by a long margin over arcades, betting, bingo, casinos, the national lottery, and other lotteries. In fact, the figures provided by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) are unequivocal: UK players spend £5.6 billion on online gambling, accounting for 38.8% of the total spend in the UK. Among the many online gambling activities preferred by Britons are bingo, casino, poker, and other games.
In terms of sports betting at land-based betting shops, Britons spent £3.2 billion, while the National Lottery accounted for a smidgen under £3 billion during the same period. In terms of gambling participation rates between 2015 – 2018, males are dominant, but females are increasingly interested in gambling activity in the country. The UK Gambling Commission studied the habits of gamblers and found that the most active age group for gambling is the 25-34-year-old age group.
In this group of players, 40% have participated in some or other form of gambling activity within the past month. Further, 20% of players have gambled within the past month. The majority of players polled in the survey indicated that they placed bets and played gambling games on PC, Mac, or mobile. The UK also implements strict controls to prevent problem gambling (compulsive gambling) with tools and resources such as self-exclusion, access to GamCare resources, the National Gambling Helpline, cooling off periods, and others.
The UK infrastructure is set up to encourage responsible gameplay, prevent abuse of the system, and to make it illegal for gambling adverts to target anyone under the age of 18, enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Combined, these standards are perceived as benchmarks against which the global online gambling community can begin constructing their own infrastructures and systems.

Unprecedented Popularity of Gambling in the UK

An article written by Leo Giosue and published in the Jerusalem Post titled, ‘The Gambling Industry Is Growing in the UK’ provides interesting insights into the collective mindset of players in Britain. According to the report, 33.6 million active online accounts are operational at licensed operators across the UK. Further, the UK boasts the largest number of fully licensed and regulated operators in the world at 100+, indicating a strong increase in revenues generated by UK-based operators. The UK was among the first countries in the world to recognise the sheer size and scope of online gambling and the potential it can yield for the government.
Equally important is the size of the industry. In 2018, some 100,000+ people were employed in the gambling industry in the island nation of Britain. While that figure has declined to 95,829 people, it is still substantial. Online gambling activity requires far fewer resources and personnel, and it can have an outsized impact on revenue generation. Many land-based operators have turned their focus to online gambling to increase profits, expand their digital footprint, and tap into markets globally. The comfort, convenience, and cost effectiveness of online gambling activity in Britain is well known. Players needn't frequent land-based bingo halls, lottery terminals, or casinos for their thrills – they can simply power up and play online in a fully regulated environment.
Yet another big plus of online gambling activity in the UK is the perceived credibility of the industry. Thanks in large part to the GBGC, there is a zero-tolerance policy towards underage gambling, a focus on transparency and fairness, and strict standards for all operators to abide by. Viewed in perspective, it comes as no surprise that the mature online gambling market in the UK is highly regarded in the world, and perceived as the benchmark of excellence for all newly-regulated markets to follow. It is against this backdrop that states like New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and others are measuring their own performance in this rapidly growing industry.