In the past decade, the casino industry has seen a boom in growth. But despite recent concerns, this isn’t down to a new generation of physical betting shops appearing on UK high streets.
If anything, these are slightly on the decline. In March 2022 there were 6,219, in the previous period there were 6,462.
Having said that, that’s small beer when you consider how recent events have affected high street trade. A double whammy of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis should have seen much greater losses.
Consider how many pubs and restaurants have closed in the past five years. So, it’s obvious that, even with the loss of a few sites, high-street betting shops are still doing just fine.
But that alone doesn’t explain the boom in growth. If you hadn’t guessed already it’s the world of online casinos that have contributed to this massive shot in the arm for the industry.
The online casino market in 2023 was valued at around £15.4 in the UK. £1.9 billion of the online gambling revenue came from sports betting but the vast proportion came from just one sector: we’ll get onto that.
All told, there has been a 6.2% increase in active online gamers since 2022, bringing the total to 24.7 million active players. Many of the traditional brinks and mortar gamers are now playing online, which may account for at least a portion of the high street slump.
In the latter instance, gamers may, instead of putting on a coat and heading over to the local bookies, use BonusFinder UK instead to find an online casino suitable for them. Undeniably, some are doing both…
The bigger question is what happened to inspire so many people to play online casinos? To answer this question, we need to take a look at the rise and rise of the smartphone.
Back in 1997, when we all had Nokia phones, the only game available was Snake. But online gambling was already three years old though, admittedly, you needed a home computer to play.
By 1996, there were fifteen online casino sites, a year later, 200. This should give a clear indication that from the outset, casino companies saw value in online gaming and were pouring money into the venture from the get-go.
Whether or not casino companies pre-empted the smartphone driving the industry forward is immaterial. The reality was that by the start of 2000 smartphones had internet access, all the casino companies had to do was to push for licences to allow the industry to legally thrive.
In the UK, many online casinos were granted permission to operate following the licensing of the National Lottery in 2003. From here on in the sky was the limit.
But there is more to this than meets the eye. Before the noughties ‘gambling’ was seen as either the preserve of the rich in posh casinos or as a predominantly male, working-class activity.
To understand how the online casino captured the imagination, we also need to look at changing shifts and attitudes towards gambling. And we can achieve this by looking at online casino market trends and seeing which games were popular and when.
- Late 1990s
Unsurprisingly, the most popular online casino games were the ones that required less in the way of fancy graphics, games that just worked with minimum fuss. For this reason, Poker and Blackjack were popular choices, but roulette and slots were getting a share of the market too.
Roulette or slots don’t require much in the way of skill, though you can better your odds by researching sites/games. In addition, they don’t need that much in the way of fancy graphics either.
Putting that into context, slots (even today) are relatively crude visually when compared to other online games such as Fortnite or Minecraft, say. Yet they are, quite literally, money spinners.
Live dealer games changed the landscape of online casinos. Now games had a social element as well, a concept that spread right across the whole online casino community.
Now games like Bingo would return to a more traditional, albeit online, format. Increasingly, wagering wasn’t just for the well-off or working-class males, now everyone could join in.
Nonetheless, online casinos hadn’t completely given up on their traditional audience. 2010 saw the start of virtual sports betting, which meant you didn’t always have to go to the betting shop…
- 2020 and beyond
To date, the UK Gambling Commission has issued 3,368 licenses to 2,439 online gambling companies, allowing 175 online casinos to operate.
But from its inception to the present, one game has dominated the UK market. Slots account for 73% of the UK online gaming market.
So, if you’re looking at one game that can act as control for the online casino market, the buck stops with slots.
This is a submitted article