Fewer UK sports bettors made in-play wagers during 2018, according to new statistics released by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
The UKGC’s latest annual report into the UK market’s gambling participation in 2018 shows remarkable consistency with the 2017 report, with overall participation up one point to 46% (51% for men over 16 years of age, 41% for women). Excluding individuals who only purchase National Lottery draw tickets, participation rose one point to 32%.
Online gambling participation was flat at 18% (23% for men, 15% for women), although this falls to 14% (also flat) when you exclude individuals whose only online gambling activity involves the National Lottery.
The number of online gamblers who made an in-play wager dropped three points to 23% in 2018. This drop was much higher (seven points) in the 35-44 age demo. In fact, all age demos save those in the 65+ group reported reduced participation in in-play wagering. (Apparently, like Spinal Tap, Ray Winstone‘s appeal is becoming more selective.)
ADVERTISING LOSING ITS EFFECTIVENESS
UK operators have agreed to halt their promotional activities during live sports telecasts starting this summer but the 2018 report showed only 45% of online gamblers saying they’d been prompted to spend money on gambling as a result of advertising, down eight points from 2017. This decline was evident across all age demos, with the biggest drops (13%) coming in the 18-24 and 35-44 groups.
Free bets and bonus offers remain the most successful come-ons in influencing gamblers, but the category also reported an 11-point decline in effectiveness from 2017. It’s worth noting that UK regulators turned a harsh spotlight on online bonus offers early in 2018.
Social media promos prompted 57% of respondents to spend money on gambling, essentially flat year-on-year. There was an interesting age-related split in this category, with individuals 18-34 reporting significant declines while those in the older demos reporting increased activity after viewing social media promos.
HOW AND WHY
Laptops remain the most popular way to access online gambling, although its share fell five points to 45%, while mobile phone gambling rose five points to 44%. Desktop access was down four points to 28%, with a much larger slice of men (34%) than women (20%) reporting using a PC to gamble in 2018. Tablet gambling was down one point to 18%.
As for why people gamble, the sheer desire to win ranked first with 45%, followed by fun & enjoyment (29%) and wanting to win a jackpot (18%). Interestingly, a greater number of women (49%) than men (42%) cited the desire to win as their primary motivation, while men were far more likely to gamble for fun (34%) than women (23%).
DOES THE ‘F’ IN FOBT STAND FOR FUN?
Only 1.5% of respondents reported feeding money into a fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT) in a retail betting shop, essentially flat year-on-year. As of April 1, the maximum stake on FOBTs is set to fall from its current £100 to just £2, so it will be interesting to see how this effects the participation rate when the 2019 report is released.
Despite the UK media narrative of crazed FOBT players feeding their life savings into the machines and then smashing up the shop after losing, more respondents (58%) said they played FOBTs for fun than National Lottery draw players (53%). Et tu, Camelot?
ESPORTS AND SOCIAL CASINOS
Free-play social casino participation fell three points to 21%, primarily as a result of female participation falling six points. eSports betting remains a niche activity, with only 5% of respondents copping to placing an eSports wager in 2018, a two-point decline from 2017’s figure.
The UK media’s relentless drumbeat of anti-gambling articles had its intended effect, as the number of respondents who viewed gambling as fair and trustworthy fell three points to 30%. However, the number of respondents who believe gambling is associated with crime also fell three points to 38%, so expect another Daily Mail article about Lord Lucan being murdered by the Mafia over his gambling debts in 3…2…1…
Nearly four-fifths (79%) of respondents believe Britons have too many gambling opportunities at their disposal, but 62% believe individuals have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they exercise these opportunities. That said, 71% believe gambling is a threat to family life.
The 2018 annual report includes problem gambling stats, but these are drawn from the 2016 gambling behavior survey, a summary of which can be seen here.
The number of respondents who are aware of self-exclusion programs continues to grow, yet the number of gamblers who’d actually enrolled in such a program remained constant at 6%. The 18-34 age demo remain the most likely to utilize gambling management tools.