UK Online Sports Betting: The Baseline For Measuring Future Growth

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UK sports betting baseline

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) recently released statistics covering regulated gambling up to September 30, 2015. The figures show a total annual gross gambling yield of £12.6 billion ($16.3 billion), of which 29 percent comes from online gambling.

Total sports betting wagers came in at £9.518 billion ($12.32 billion). Gross gaming revenue from that was £1.499 billion ($1.94 billion) indicating a margin of just over 15.7 percent.

Here is a graphic from the UKGC on the top-line figures:

UK gambling numbers

Little change from last year

The figures include 11 months of remote gaming data from November 1, 2014, to October 31, 2015. U.K. laws changed on November 1, 2014, and the previous report only showed five months of data from November 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015.

Since data is not broken down monthly, seasonal factors make the second set of figures difficult to compare with the earlier set. The UKGC commented that revenues from internet gambling remain “steady, showing little change from the first five months’ worth of online data published in November 2015.”

The five-month figures showed total internet gaming revenues of £1.45 billion the subsequent 11 months generated £3.64 billion. This is apparently a proportional increase of 14 percent, but the comparison is not reliable. The timing of major sports fixtures makes the figures not directly comparable.

Remote sports betting produced gross gaming yield of £1.358 billion, with a further £139 million coming from online betting exchanges.

Football betting generated the biggest chunk of remote gross gaming revenues, with horse race wagering second, and tennis in third place. Actual revenue figures by sports were:

Others includes esports and virtual sports betting

The “Others” figure is particularly notable because it includes revenues from esports betting, daily fantasy sports and virtual sports betting. These activities have grown substantially in recent years, so this total will be one to watch in coming reports, and at some point the new segments may well be broken out.

The statistics report that a total of 21.57 million people have online gambling accounts, and that the total amount of customer funds held online at the end of the period was £777.44 million.

Bingo and gaming arcades showed declining popularity and there was a 1.9 percent reduction in the total number of high street betting shops, where a large proportion of U.K. sports betting takes place. Total numbers declined from 8,975 to 8,809.

Next year’s figures may show an even bigger decline, as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) inquiry into the merger of Gala Coral and Ladbrokes is likely to recommend the sale or closure of a number of the group’s betting shops.

UKGC statistics don’t yet help identify trends

In a sense, the UKGC statistics are disappointing. For remote gambling and sports betting, they don’t provide enough information to highlight what trends there are in the industry.

UKGC Programme Director James Green said:

“Market trends and consumer participation research are key to shaping the Commission’s regulatory policy to keep gambling in Britain safe for consumers, fair, and crime-free.”

This is the first year of statistics for online and mobile sports betting. Future years will provide the opportunity to see trends more clearly, but it would be helpful if the UKGC could follow the example of the French regulator ARJEL and provide a more detailed breakdown of revenues so that relative performance of various gambling segments is more visible.

In particular the growth trend of esports betting, daily fantasy sports and virtual sports betting could be made more clear.