UK Land-Based Casinos Make Post-Pandemic Come Back
New UKGC industry statistics show that amid the most significant gambling reform the UK has seen in almost two decades and a cost of living crisis, the gambling industry is thriving. The statistics chart from April 2022 until March 2023 details growth across the entire industry (remote and land-based), which is up 6.8% year on year (YoY) to a total of £15.1 billion in Gross Gambling Yield (GGY).
This is the first time the industry has seen an increase in pre-pandemic GGY, with figures up 6.6% compared with March 2020. Excluding lotteries, the total GGY for the period was £10.9 billion.
Land-Based Recovery and Growth
The land-based market share grew from 35% to 41% in the period. Arcades, betting, bingo, and casino GGY are up 20.6%, while gaming machine GGY increased by 23% YoY. These figures mean that the land-based sector has now returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The increases in land-based GGY are surprising, as there are 186 fewer gambling establishments in March 2023 than the previous year. Compared to pre-pandemic levels (April 2019 – March 2020), the industry has reduced by 1,386 establishments, just over 18% of the market. According to the Commission’s data, the total number of land-based establishments now stands at 8,301.
Remote Gambling Remains Biggest Sector
Remote gambling remained the largest sector in terms of GGY, including casinos, betting, and bingo. That market accrued £6.5 billion, with online casino games accounting for £4 billion (£3.2 billion from slots), remote betting at £2.3 billion, and remote bingo coming in last at £173.6 million. The number of new account registrations also increased, while active accounts went up 4% to 36.4 million.
The lottery also triumphed, with national lottery ticket sales growing by 1.1% YoY up to £8.2 billion. £4.7 billion was re-distributed as prizes, and £1.7 billion awarded to good causes. This reflects a 3.5% sales growth on pre-lockdown figures.
Meanwhile, Large Society ticket sales hit £943.9 million, with £216.5 million returned in prize money and £421.7 million going to good causes. Large Society ticket sales saw a massive 13.5% uptick on the last pre-lockdown figures.
Industry Growth Smashes Through Concerns Regarding
Gambling Review Reform
The Commission’s data comes at a crucial time as a heated debate about the UK’s gambling review rages on. Many in the industry have said that the upcoming reforms, particularly the proposed affordability checks and slot stake limits, will drive players offshore, providing greater incentive for black market gambling.
With the first set of statistics now out since the formal reform process started, the concerns seem unwarranted. Despite some establishment closures, growth in the online, land-based, and lottery sectors suggests that the UK gambling industry is in a solid position to weather the upcoming changes, which are designed to make gambling safer for consumers.
The Second Round of Stakeholder Consultations Underway
The industry statistics were also published during the same week that round two of the Gambling Review Act consultations began. The consultations will last 12 weeks. According to the Commission’s Tim Miller, they will cover:
- Socially responsible incentives, specifically bonuses and free bets, ensure they do not encourage harmful gambling.
- Customer-led tools that empower players to manage their gambling.
- Transparency and protection of customer funds.
- The requirement to make annual contributions to Research, Prevention, and Treatment.
- Regulatory data, consulting on increasing the frequency of reporting for many licensees from annual to quarterly.
- Transparency of financial penalties for operators who do not follow the rules.
- And financial key reporting by operators.
The consultations are expected to close in February 2024. However, there were delays with the first round of consultations due to some misunderstanding of proposals.