The financial period of April 2020 to March 2021 has come to an end, meaning that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) will soon publish online casino revenue statistics from this period.
The 12 months in question were turbulent, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing havoc. But beyond that, online casino operators were under the spotlight over myriad player protection conversations.
It’s unlikely that this period of uncertainty will stop for online casinos any time soon, especially with the ongoing 2005 Gambling Act review.
So, how can we expect last year’s online casino revenue to pan out? We’ll discuss this further in this article.
Online casino performance from April 2019 to March 2020
Of the £14.4 billion generated by regulated UK gambling in this 12-month period, online casinos were the largest contributor. Operators in this vertical brought in just under £3.2 billion, which was over half of online gambling’s £5.7 billion gross gambling yield (GGY).
Games defined as ‘other’ were responsible for 8.7% of online casino revenue. Blackjack accounted for 5.7%, with peer-to-peer poker making up the rest.
Online casino operators also kept up their exponential growth between April 2019 and March 2020. The money generated over this period was 3.7% higher than in the previous 12 months. Since 2015, online casino revenue has increased by over £800 million and 34.3% in total.
What will have impacted online casino revenue between April 2020 and March 2021?
The elephant in the room for this time period will be COVID-19. Land-based casinos have been hit harder than most other gambling industry sectors in the past 12 months.
During the first national UK lockdown, casino venues were among the last businesses allowed to reopen. They were then subjected to capacity restrictions and curfews, before closing again various times in later local and national shutdowns.
Also important is the introduction of the credit card ban. Since April 2020, online gambling via credit card has been banned in the UK. As such, individuals have had to use other payment methods to wager. This might have put off some players from betting online.
The overall emphasis on player safety is also worth considering. VIP schemes have been thrown into question, while the UKGC has reiterated operators’ responsibilities on various occasions throughout the current crisis.
What can we expect online casino revenue to look like?
General trends have shown a steady reduction in land-based casino revenue, coinciding with the uptake in online casino activity, and the pandemic will likely have accelerated those changes. Much of the country has worked from home for the past year, while various leisure facilities were also closed. As such, people had more time to bet online.
Since the start of the March 2020 lockdown, the UKGC has collected data to monitor player behaviour when it comes to online gambling.
Online slots will be particularly interesting to look at. The Commission mentioned that this is one of the highest-risk areas for possible problem gamblers, so we’ll soon see whether or not there has been a dramatic increase in money generated from games of this type.
Also worth looking out for is online poker. In the US, the vertical enjoyed a bit of a renaissance at the start of the pandemic. Whether or not the same has been replicated on this side of the Atlantic will soon be revealed.
Online casino gaming has been steadily growing since 2015, and it’s hard to see that trend suddenly dropping despite the pandemic. This is especially true when you consider that land-based venues were closed for much of the last 12 months, which will no doubt have led more players to go online.
Looking deeper, the soon-to-be-released revenue figures will also tell us a lot about the future of online casino in the UK. We will find out whether or not there was a significant uptake in online slots, and whether or not the credit card ban significantly impacted player spending.
While online casinos will continue to become more popular across the country, growth might be slowed by possible incoming restrictions. We’ll have to wait and see what the Gambling Act review says about these factors.