In these uncertain times, online gambling has emerged as a UK business success story, with a consistent increase in revenue for more than a decade.
Thanks in part to a proactive approach to licensing and regulation, online gambling has been allowed to flourish, and the government has been reaping the tax rewards.
What have been the drivers behind this industry boom, and where could it take us in the future? Online casinos can be viewed as an instance of the authorities getting it right from the outset, creating a strict but accommodating environment in which remote gambling is thriving. At the same time, improvements in technology and the de-stigmatising of such activities have drawn in more players than ever.
New technologies and new casinos
A major factor factor driving the rise in online gambling revenue is certainly technological improvements, especially in mobile casino. Now that players are not chained to their home computers, the possibilities for remote gambling have been expanded considerably.
In this time of general economic slowdown, we are now seeing a proliferation of new online casinos. Players are increasingly turning to new UK casino sites because they employ the latest technologies alongside contemporary graphics and design. In fact, so many new UK casinos open their doors each year that the site NewCasinoUK was created to help customers choose from the best of the recently-opened, UK-licensed operators.
Of course, not all new online casinos succeed, but the number of sites setting up shop is a clear indicator of a flourishing industry.
Creating a friendly legislative environment
Looking at Europe and the USA, we can see that many countries are still grappling with how to regulate their online gambling market, as well as how to profit from it. Some markets have chosen to stay largely unregulated, while others have taken the opposite approach and allow citizens to play only at state-owned and sanctioned online casinos.
The upshot in both cases is that players choose to take their business to remote operators in other jurisdictions, resulting in fewer protections for players and government coffers missing out on tax revenue.
In this country, the Gambling Act of 2005 and the formation of the UK Gambling Commission in 2007 paved the way for a flourishing gambling industry, while ensuring that the online sector stayed under UK control. One of the provisions of the Act was to allow television advertising for online operators, which enabled sites to attract customers like never before.
The UKGC also grants licenses and oversees the industry as a whole. Provided they comply with the stringent conditions that the Commission requires, anyone can set up shop as an online casino provider. Thus, UK players have a huge choice of well-regulated sites to choose from.
Online gambling as entertainment
Another factor in this success story is a radical change in public perception. Not all that long ago, the idea of gambling and casinos was inextricably linked to vice, with online gambling suffering a particularly seedy image.
Since the lifting of the advertising ban, this perception has receded, and player numbers have increased. As the pool of users increases, so do payout rates, which adds further incentive.
But it’s not just about winning, and many people use UK online casinos purely as a form of entertainment. Around 30% of players surveyed by the UKGC reported that fun and enjoyment was their primary reason for logging on. It seems that online gambling has taken its place in our day to day entertainment; public image and the convenience of mobile casinos are two big contributors.
Another trend observed in recent years is the rise in female gamblers. Once seen as a rather masculine pastime, online casino users are now fairly evenly split along gender lines. Women who may have felt uncomfortable in male-dominated environments like casinos now have the means to gamble in private. Some casino providers have even designed their product specifically for the female market.
Online gambling – a UK success story
A close look at the industry shows that there are many factors that have contributed to the impressive performance of UK online casinos and gambling. From the start, the authorities were smart to create a well-regulated environment for both players and operators.
Despite a slight overall decline in the gambling market over the past couple of years, UK online casinos have seen steady growth. Remote betting, casino games, slots and bingo now account for close to 40% of the UK market, worth an estimated £14.5bn in the 12 months to September 2018.
This permissive attitude did much to overturn negative public impressions of gambling in general, and online casinos in particular. As old attitudes receded, and mobile technology improved, more and more players joined the online ranks.
If we look at new online casinos as an indicator, we see a thriving industry which is holding its own in a slow economy. Long may it continue.