Gambling in the UK has never been more popular than right now. It’s attracting legions of new fans, with younger adults especially trying their hand at gambling for the very first time. Many factors have played into the rise of gambling in the UK, from the effects of the pandemic to shifting cultural attitudes to wagering.
But what does gambling actually look like in the UK, and is its popularity here to stay? And what does the future hold for the country’s gambling industry? We explore in depth below.
The Rise of Online Casinos
The stratospheric rise of the online casino market has helped to boost gambling revenue in the UK, with many popular online casinos based in the country. Partly due to the pandemic’s lockdowns and partly due to their concern about appealing to new demographics, this type of casino has been booming for the last few years, and this shows no sign of changing anytime soon.
Online casinos offer a range of tempting welcome offers, bonuses, and promotions – such as cashback – to attract punters, and have been extremely successful in doing so, building up huge membership bases as a result.
Another key reason for gambling’s popularity in the UK is due to the nature of the country’s regulations. The UK Gambling Commission oversees gambling establishments in the UK and provides licensing to establishments. It’s a very well-respected body that provides robust regulation, ensuring that the gambling platforms operating under its umbrella comply with all the relevant laws.
Not all gambling regulators are equal: in some countries, the nature of regulations is not as robust as in others: this means that what may not be allowed under UK law is permitted in another territory.
This is an important but sometimes overlooked component of the popularity of gambling in the UK. While, for many years, around 30% of the UK population plays the National Lottery (a form of gambling), visiting casinos was not considered a particularly trendy activity. Popular movies and music videos have helped to change this, helped along by casinos’ efforts at rebranding and marketing.
Gambling establishments in the UK are now increasingly becoming like those of Las Vegas, regularly incorporating fine-dining restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, drawing a younger, hipper crowd which has changed perceptions of the type of person who visits a casino.
The emergence of smartphone tech has also contributed to the rise of gambling’s popularity in the UK. Huge boosts to mobile accessibility and connectivity have meant that people in the UK can now access online gambling platforms around the globe – and from anywhere in the world.
The rise of mobile tech has profoundly altered how, as a society, the UK views the activity of gambling. Rather than it being something of an ‘underground’ pursuit, carried out around a plain round table in an atmosphere thick with cigar smoke, it’s now regarded as some fun entertainment that can be enjoyed on the work commute while waiting in the dentist’s office, or whenever there’s a few moments to fill.
And the fact that gambling is tax-free in the UK doesn’t hurt its popularity here, either! While some countries tax gambling winnings, this isn’t the case in the UK. If you’re lucky enough to win some money, you get to keep all of it, with not a penny being diverted to the taxman!
The Impact of the Pandemic
Lockdown saw the temporary closure of land-based casinos, which prompted an increase in the number of people visiting online casinos as an alternative. But more than this, the nature of being in lockdown meant that many people who had never participated in gambling before headed to an online casino to give it a go.
As well as alleviating boredom and providing a welcome distraction during a particularly challenging time, online gambling platforms provide an opportunity for social engagement – many live casino-style games feature in-game chat, allowing players to chat with others around the virtual table as well as the dealer.
The Entertainment Factor
And, of course, the entertainment and thrill of gambling attract many people in the UK to online and physical casinos and other gambling establishments. With the chance to win big, the variety of games, and the social aspect, it’s not surprising that gambling is such a popular pursuit.
With new games constantly being added to a casino’s roster, players have plenty of opportunities to try out some new entertainment or to have a go at a card game they’ve never encountered before, adding to the fun factor even further.
How Do People in the UK Gamble?
Research from 2022 revealed that 43% (at least) of people in the UK have gambled at least once in their lives and that Brits spend, on average, £2.60 per week on gambling – although it’s important to bear in mind that a significant component of this sum will include participating in the National Lottery.
Between April and September 2000, around £838 million was held in online betting accounts in the UK.
What Gambling Activities are Most Popular in the UK?
After the National Lottery, the most popular form of gambling in the UK is scratchcards; 10% of the population enjoy a flutter on the latter on a regular basis. Sports betting comes next, with 5% of the population indulging in this pursuit in 2020.
Brits Love of Bingo
Bingo is also a highly popular form of gambling in the UK, much loved by players of all ages! It’s widely played in both brick-and-mortar establishments and online platforms, and the combined revenue of all bingo games yearly in the UK stands at over £910 million!
The Gambling Demographic
Recent research has shown that those in the 35-55 age range are most likely to be active gamblers, although there has been a surge in younger people (those aged 25 to 34) taking part in gambling. Men currently gamble more frequently than women – 51% of the male population gambles, compared to 41% of the female population.
But just as the number of gamblers has increased in the UK, unfortunately, so has the number of those with a gambling problem. It’s estimated that around 1.4 million people in the UK are problem gamblers.
Attracting the High Rollers
Many casinos in the UK have focused their marketing efforts on attracting high rollers: gamblers who are prepared to wager very large sums in a bid to win even bigger. Due to this, British casinos have seen an influx of players prepared to play for major stakes, frequently showering these high-rollers with gifts and other perks to keep them coming back!
Gambling Trends in the UK: The Future
With both brick-and-mortar and online casinos increasingly appealing to new demographics and concerned with making the experience of gambling as fun and accessible as possible, the popularity of gambling in the UK is likely to only increase in the coming years.
Added to this is the expected new VR trend, which will see online casinos transform into truly virtual casinos, where, via their avatars, players can stroll around, have a look at the games on offer, and then take their seat at a table for a truly immersive experience.