UK betting shop numbers fall but remote gaming continues to rise

Election Gambling Commission Westminster
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New figures released by the UK Gambling Commission paint a mixed picture of the industry in Britain, with retail premises showing a marked decline while online GGY continues to balloon month-on-month. It remains to be seen whether Brexit will exact a high price on Britain’s industry – or offer freedom from the much-touted ‘red tape’ of Brussels.

 

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]emote casino, betting and bingo products have now overtaken retail betting as the largest chunk of the UK gaming market, new statistics from the Gambling Commission reveal.

The latest data represents the first time in its history that the UKGC has had access to almost a full year of remote gaming statistics, having first introduced the point-of-consumption tax on online gaming in November 2014.

Over the course of the eleven months from 1 November 2014 to 30 September 2015, online GGY soared to more than £3.5bn, accounting for a 29 percent share of the market. Meanwhile, the National Lottery fetched £3.29bn while non-remote betting accounted for GGY of £3.2bn.

In a statement released alongside the new report, programme director James Green said: “We are publishing clear authoritative data on the gambling industry in Great Britain.

 

We are publishing clear authoritative data on the gambling industry in Great Britain

 

“For the first time the figures include almost a full year’s worth of data relating to online gambling operators – the market share of the online betting, bingo and casino is 29 percent and we’ll be interested to see how this varies over time.”

While sports betting performed relatively strongly over the period, the number of betting shops continues to decline. As of March this year, 8,809 betting shops existed in Great Britain – down 1.9 percent from 8,975 in March 2015. This could partly be attributed to the wave of consolidation activity that has hit the UK betting industry, as well as the regulatory and taxation headwinds faced by independents.

“Offline we’re seeing changes,” explained Green. “There’s been a reduction in the number of betting shops, arcades and bingo halls in the last two years.”

British Gaming in NumbersThe number of high stakes B2 machines also declined – although GGY from these machines increased year-on-year. Between March 2015 and March 2016, the total number of Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals dropped from 34,894 to 34,704 – a decrease of 0.5 percent. Gross Gambling Yield, on the other hand, climbed by 1.5 percent from £1.68bn to £1.71bn, testifying to the increased popularity of these machines.

The gambling industry continues to be a strong source of employment in the country, accounting for more than 100,000 full- and part-time jobs. Of these, 49 percent – or 52,566 – come from the betting sector, while eight percent come from the remote sector and six percent are employed to service and build machines.

“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,” added Green.

 

Analysis

Despite the onslaught of new forms of taxation and tighter regulations – such as the £50 anonymous stake limit on B2s – most sectors of the British gaming industry have seen steady growth, with online gaming unsurprisingly going from strength to strength.

The industry could be facing its second major challenge, however, as we try to understand what toll the UK’s decision to exit the European Union could have on British businesses. “Unlike most industries the online gambling sector does not benefit from the Internal Market and to that extent at least we are less vulnerable to the effects of being excluded from it,” RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood told Betting Business. “But the prolonged period of uncertainty while the terms of Brexit are negotiated is unhelpful.” Other commentators lamented the plummeting price of the pound – something that dealt a blow to bookmakers almost immediately. “Income for many international affiliates that are rooted in the currency are going to be hit by the payments they’re taking in GBP, with many based in countries such as Denmark, Malta and Germany,” said Better Collective’s Michal Kopec. “This will be a huge issue in the short term, and it’ll take robust planning to weather the storm and emerge on the other side.” In the opinions of most, though, it’s simply too early to tell. In other words, we’ll just have to wait and see.


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