Gambling Statistics UK 2021

How big is the UK online gambling sector, who participates in it, and how was it affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Xace has scraped the data to paint a picture

Gambling Accounts
May 3, 2021
5 min read

The UK was one of the first ‘big’ countries in the world to legalise online gaming with the 2005 Gambling Act. Ever since, the country’s relatively liberal attitude toward games of chance has spurred the industry forward, making it one of the most successful in the world.

But how big is the UK online gambling sector, who participates in it, and how was it affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Xace has scraped the data to paint a picture of online gaming in the UK in 2021. Alternatively, get the bigger picture for UK gaming statistics 2021 here.

UK gambling statistics for 2021

The following UK gambling statistics 2021 give you an up-to-date view of remote gaming in the country.

How big is the UK online gaming market in 2021?

In a word, big!

It is estimated that there are around 24million people in the UK who participate in online gaming at least once per month. That’s about 44% of the entire adult population (aged 18 and over)!

There are lots of businesses working in the sector. Overall, the UK Gambling Commission has issued more than 3,600 licenses to 2,600 online gambling companies. And there are at least 175 online casinos operating in the country.

Online betting and gambling represent the largest combined sector for gross gambling yield (GGY). According to the most recent data (from 2020), online gaming in the UK took £5.7 billion GGY – that’s just under 40% of the entire market (the next biggest form of gambling is the National Lottery, with a GGY of £3.4billion).

Statistic: Distribution of gambling participants in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2020, by type of gambling activity | Statista

Of this total, online casino games were especially successful, taking £3.2billion in GGY. Slot games were the most popular by far (69%), while roulette(14%) and blackjack (6%) also attracted plenty of punters.

Remote betting is also a significant market in the UK, taking a total of £2.3 billion GGY in 2020. Football and horse betting were the most popular sports to bet on.

While smaller than other types of online gaming, remote bingo also had a good year in 2020, bringing in almost £177million.

Online gaming is continuing to grow, too. According to gambling industry statistics released by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) the remote betting and gaming sector saw combined growth of 20% between October 2018 and September 2019,which indicates a strong upwards trend. That said, between April 2019 and March2020, there was a 0.6% decrease in GGY, almost certainly due to the pandemic. However, given that lockdowns meant many sports events were cancelled, this decline is smaller than might be expected in the circumstances.

Impact of the pandemic on UK Online Gambling Industry

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic pulled gamers to online casinos and betting sites when lockdowns closed physical betting shops and casinos. Government data shows that while non-remote betting decreased by 26% last year and traditional casino used dropped by 4%, remote betting, bingo and casino attendance rose by just over 8%.

According to one study, 12% of gamblers increased their online gambling spend during the lockdown, while 25% decreased the amount of wagers they made. That said, 59% said their betting and gambling behaviours hadn’t been affected either way.

The interesting question is how much of along-term behavioural change this will lead to. Are the people who started gaming online going to stay there, or will they return to their old habits as non-remote gaming returns?

UK online gaming sector impacts traditional gambling

The rise in online gaming over the past decade has had a big impact on traditional betting shops and bookies. Data shows that despite a rise in industry GGY, the overall gaming workforce has declined by almost 15% since 2011. And, between 2009 and 2019 there was a small decline (0.4%) in the number of high street bookies, despite a rising population.

Conversely, there are lots of jobs in the online gaming industry – according to job listings site Job Site, there were over 500 online gambling job listings open in May 2021.

Online gaming businesses have a number advantages over their bricks and mortar competitors:

·        They remain open for business any time of day

·        They require fewer staff

·        Business owners do not need to hire expensive premises

·        They can offer more games

·        Their lower business costs mean they can offer competitive odds

Who participates in online gaming in the UK?

Online gaming is popular across age groups in the UK. That said, they are particularly popular among people aged between 35 and 55.

Statistics show that 29% of people in the 35-44 age range gamble online at least once per month and 25% of 45–54-year-olds gamble monthly too. People in the 65+ age group gamble online the least.

Statistic: Frequency of gambling in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2020 | Statista

Online gamblers are more likely to be male. Studies show that around 23% of UK men gambled online each month in 2018, versus 15% of women.

The average UK online gambler bets £2.57 per week – or £134 annually. This suggests that most gamers bet and wager as an occasional pastime, rather than a serious activity.

The top three reasons that people take part in online gambling in the UK are:

·        Escape and relaxation

·        Financial motivation

·        Social and competitive side

In terms of how people gamble remotely, gaming from a mobile device is perhaps the most common way to play. Research shows that over 50% of people now place bets or use casino apps on their smart phones (versus using a desktop computer or over the phone).

The future of UK online gambling and betting industry

Overall, the outlook for online gaming in the UK appears positive, with a generally upward trend in the number of people using sports betting and casino websites. The pandemic also introduced many more people to online gaming, so we can expect these new habits to stick for some.

That being said, there are challenges on the horizon, especially when it comes to regulations. The UK Gambling Commission is cracking down on things like fixed odd betting terminals and online gaming sites that don’t comply with all the rules.

So, how do you think the UK’s online gaming industry will evolve?

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