Online gambling

Online gambling in the UK continues to rise, Commission research finds

Posted on: October 26, 2022, 12:55 p.m.

Last update on: October 26, 2022, 01:38h.

Despite the turmoil the UK is facing, with rising inflation and an unstable government, gambling is on the rise. In particular, the online segment continues to swell, although it still represents only a small part of the industry.

Andre Rhodes
UK Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes poses for a photo for the regulator. New data shows gaming activity is on the rise as the online segment continues to add new consumers. (Image: FocusGN)

The UK now has another Prime Minister in the person of Rishi Sunak, who has just been sworn in after the resignation of Liz Truss. There are already calls for him to take a proactive stance on gambling reform, although getting the economy in order could be a bigger priority.

The problems do not prevent the British from playing. The latest statistics from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) show a record 27% participation in online gambling, its highest level to date.

Almost back to normal

Overall participation in the game has increased near pre-pandemic levels. It is now 44%, only 3% less than the figure communicated in September 2019.

With 43% of respondents reporting having gambled in the past four weeks, the 25-34 age group saw the largest increase in overall gambling participation. This segment also saw the largest increase among 35-44 years old, which went from 29% to 32%. All age groups reported improvements except for the 65+ age group.

The National Lottery was responsible for much of the overall growth, with participation rising from 26.5% to 28.7%. Not far behind, the online slots segment also contributed, with participation rising from 3.4% to 4.6%.

The number of people participating in land-based gambling has also increased, indicating that the online segment is not cannibalizing this segment, as some have suggested. The only drop is in sports betting, which is now down 4.5% after losing 1.1%.

After falling in previous surveys, the proportion of people who gamble regularly has increased to 26.6%. This is a jump of 3.3%. According to the UKGC, the problem gambling rate was stable at 0.3%. Given previous surveys that show similar results, an increase in gambling without an increase in problem gambling shows that the industry’s continued efforts are working.

There was one area that stood out in problem gambling data. It increased among 16-24 year olds, from 0.4% last year to 1.4%.

UKGC moving forward with changes

Until the UK government figures out how to approach reforms to its gambling laws, the UKGC will do the heavy lifting. It is implementing changes on a number of fronts, including how it conducts its reviews, as well as how it oversees operators.

UKGC CEO Andrew Rhodes recently explained that changes to the UK Gambling Act 2005 will most likely focus on slot machines, including online slots. There will also be a number of new rules and regulations for the entire online segment.

Until the new whitepaper on the game arrives, the UKGC will take the lead. Under his leadership, online slots can no longer offer an autoplay feature, and the regulator will take a tough stance against violators.

There is also a push for a “single customer view” in the online segment. This would allow all operators to share user data to determine if someone is trying to switch from one operator to another in order to circumvent responsible gambling controls.

These are just some of the updates the regulator wants to implement, along with changes to advertising. They come as the UK gambling industry shows a significantly low level of problem gambling.

They also come amid falling gaming revenue, operators say. However, the market remains solid and adding growth, which will help keep it sustainable for now.