On February 23, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) published information about the current gambling situation in the UK, players' behavior, and the financial performance of the operators that have a legal right to serve the UK customers. The data covers Q3 of the financial year 2022-2023 (October-December) and compares the numbers against the Q3 of the previous year.
According to the released information, the online total Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) saw a 2% decrease from £1.4 billion in Q3 2021-2022 to £1.2 billion in 2022-2023, but an increase of 8% in the total number of bets and spins was reported.
The percentage of active gambling accounts increased by 13% and totaled 3.7 million. The information was provided by UKGC licensees with online and offline market presence.
Slots‘ GGY increased by 2% to reach £582 million, and the number of spins saw an 8% rise.
The published data also shows that slots players whose gambling sessions tended to last more than an hour increased by 11% and accounted for 9 million of all players.
The average session length decreased by 2 minutes YOY to reach 17 minutes in Q3 of the current financial year.
As for the customer interactions, a 10% decrease YOY was reported, while the percentage of direct interactions by operators increased 32% YOY.
The report also mentions a 5% increase YOY in betting operators' GGY, which reached £560 million, as well as a 2% increase of the number of total bets and spins that reached £3.4 million.
The regulator warned that comparisons between the industry statistics dataset should be avoided as it does not cover all licensed operators but includes free bets and bonuses that have an impact on the final numbers. The Commission also pointed out the current economic situation where people feel uncertain about their personal and financial well being.
The UKGC has always been considered one of the most reliable gambling regulators in Europe, the UK legislators gave the nod to online gambling and operators were striving to obtain a license and serve local players. However, as the time passed and problem gambling issues started to emerge, the UKGC started to impose more and more limitations. Operators were often hit with heavy fines for different problem gambling, advertising, etc. violations. At one point, some of them decided to exit the UK market as they could not cover their expenses.
Meanwhile, the UK lawmakers decided to review and update the existing gambling laws, but for one reason or another the release of the so-called gambling white paper was delayed. The political turmoil in the country is cited as a major reason for the delay. Expectations are the UK gambling laws to be updated some time in 2023 and one thing is for sure – when released, the white paper will shake the industry and eventually cause the exit of the bad actors.
According to opponents of online gambling activities, excessive gambling is becoming a public health problem and as much as 3% of the active players are defined as “problem gamblers”. At the same time, namely the problem gamblers have the greatest contribution to the revenue of the casino operators as they lose huge amounts on a regular basis. What's more, a parliamentary report from 2021 suggests that 5% of the online casino players in the UK generate 60% of the industry profits.
Given these numbers, one of the much needed changes is related to the VIP packages. The white paper is believed to contain a clause that prohibits the VIP packages that give high rollers huge bonuses and encourage them to play more and lose more.
The other possible reform is related to the Premier League front-of-jersey sponsorship. Gambling operators will have to pay yet another tax intended to reduce the gambling harm on people using their services.
The affordability checks that spiked controversy among gambling communities are also expected to undergo some changes. Monthly and annual loss limits are to be imposed.
The other imminent issues, the white paper is believed to solve are related to the max possible wager at online and land-based casinos, the max amount of bonuses players can claim, the speed of the gameplay, customer protection, and the bonus metrics related to deposit – loss ratio.
It seems that the white paper will address all weak points of the online gambling industry, but industry analysts predict that the heavy restrictions would have the opposite effect. Instead of protecting customers, the excessive restrictions will push players to the offshore casinos and casinos not on UK's Gamstop thus causing the substantial growth of the black markets where customers do not have to comply with any limitations. At the same time, they are exposed to the risk of having their personal or banking information misused, their winnings unfairly confiscated, and their problem gambling issues becoming worse.