Lottery and online gambling growth offset UK’s gaming machine collapse


UK gambling revenue took a small dip in the 12 months immediately preceding the pandemic outbreak despite a surge in lottery activity.

Figures released Thursday by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) show total gross gambling yield (GGY) of £14.2b in the 12 months ending March 31, 2020, a modest 0.6% decrease from the same period 12 months prior. This marks the second year in a row in which overall GGY has fallen from the previous year.

The reporting period concluded 11 days after the UK market entered its (first) pandemic lockdown, so the wholesale upheaval since that unblessed event isn’t reflected here. But the period does include the dramatic reduction of stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) in betting shops from £100 to just £2 that started April 1, 2019.

Total GGY minus lotteries was down 4.5% to £10.2b, as National Lottery sales rose 10.4% to £3.4b while other lotteries shot up 13.2% to £611.6m. Lotteries (both online and retail) accounted for 28.2% of the market’s overall GGY.

Online gambling recovered from its first ever annual GGY decline in the previous period by rising 8.1% to £5.7b, representing a nearly 40% share of the overall figure, up nearly three points year-on-year, and once again claiming the largest slice of the overall result. 

Online casino GGY rose 3.7% to £3.175b, online betting shot up 15.5% to £2.33b – as punter-antagonistic results overcame a 4.3% fall in turnover – while online bingo nudged up 0.5% to £176.8m.

Slots claimed the biggest slice (69.7%) of the online casino pie, with slots GGY up 4.9% year-on-year. The ‘other’ games category grew 18.5%, pushing it to an 8.7% share of the overall, while poker also posted positive growth, rising 2.7%. Roulette (-1.7%) and blackjack (-14%) played contrarian.

Tennis was the only online betting sport to report negative GGY growth, falling 3.5% to £116.7m. Football retained its dominant position on the betting chart, rising 13.8% to £1.13b, but horse betting shot up 28.2% to nearly £653m while the dogs were up 29.2% to nearly £73m. (Nobody tell PETA.)

New online gambling account registrations rose 30% although the total sum held in online accounts was down nearly one-quarter.

At the retail level, betting shop GGY was down a whopping 26.4% to £2.4b, as over-the-counter betting slipped 5% to £1.28b. The FOBT ‘B2’ machines slumped 99% to just £12m but machine punters have now flocked to B3 machines (£1.06b, +58%), which limited overall machine GGY decline to 41.2%.

There were 7,681 betting shops at the end of March, down from 8,320 at the end of March 2019, the sixth consecutive year of annual shrinkage. Bingo halls and arcades reported smaller declines, while the number of casinos grew by three to 156.  

Speaking of, land-based casinos reported GGY down 4% to just over £1b, with declines in both tables (-4.6%) and machines (-1.8%). Total machine GGY across all land-based sectors fell more than one-quarter to £2.09b, with the B3s the only category to post annual growth (+39.5%).

The FOBT collapse resulted in online slots overcoming their land-based counterparts for the first time, while OTC betting surpassed the infernal machines for the first time in a decade.