The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) will soon release statistics revealing the industry’s performance from the 2020 tax year. 

Last year was turbulent for everyone in the industry, with a lengthy sports shut off and land-based betting outlets forced to deal with countless restrictions.

Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry also saw a significant number of changes elsewhere. Credit card betting was banned in April 2020 and the emphasis on player safety grew further. 

The long-awaited Gambling Act review also commenced, and we will find out what changes will be enacted thanks to this later in 2021.

So, what can we expect from the next release of betting statistics? Here are our predictions. 

Looking back at the most recent results 

At the time of writing, the most recent 12-month results relate to the period between April 2019 and March 2020. 

In that period, remote betting enjoyed steady growth. Total online betting from licensed sources reached £2.33 billion. This was a 15.5% increase compared to the previous tax year when remote betting just topped £2 billion. 

Contrastingly, offline betting fell by 26.5%. Total revenue in this respect was £2.4 billion, and land-based betting had already been steadily declining since 2016. Much of the significant drop can be attributed to a maximum stake reduction from £100 to £2 , enforced in April 2019. 

The story was similar for casino operators. In this vertical rose to £3.175 billion, online gaming represents a 3.7% increase compared to April 2018-March 2019. In contrast, land-based casino gaming declined by 4% to £1.016 billion. 

Overall the UK gambling industry had a slight decrease in revenue. Licensed gambling and lottery operators generated £14.2 billion collectively, which was 0.6% lower than in the previous 12-month period. Again, a lot of this can be attributed to the limit reduction in stakes.  

The National Lottery made up the largest share of industry revenue, at 23.9%. This was followed closely by online casino gaming (22.3%). Meanwhile, remote betting took 16.4% of the market share.

Key things to consider from 2020

With the UK initially locking down due to the pandemic in March 2020, the next 12 months’ industry report will factor in a year of restrictions. Land-based betting shops and casinos were forced to close multiple times throughout the year. And when casino venues were allowed to reopen, they were subjected to further restrictions while operating. 

Also worth keeping in mind is the credit card ban, enforced in April 2020. Since then, customers have not been able to use this payment method for gambling purposes. 

The impact of COVID-19 on sports should also be considered. Most professional teams have played behind closed doors for over 12 months. For some people, their overall betting spend might have lowered since they could not visit their local bookmaker before heading to the stadium. On the flip side, a lack of interaction could have resulted in others spending more online.

Looking ahead: what should we expect? 

Anything other than a significant financial decline for land-based casinos and betting shops would be surprising. Even with pent-up demand following a three-month sporting absence, it’s unlikely that this would be able to offset the numerous months of closures and other restrictions. 

On the flip side, online casino operators might find their earnings have increased – even with the credit card ban. Boredom, combined with more people working from home, could have led to some playing on these websites more. 

Similarly, online sports betting is likely to have had more of a demand. With fans not allowed to enter stadiums, for the most part, many have felt otherwise disconnected from sport. 

The UKGC’s most-recent published betting statistics show that football was the most popular sport by far, with 48% of revenue coming from these means. We can expect similar trends this year, if not an even higher percentage. Supporters who bet every Saturday might have continued this online to maintain some kind of routine. 

The start of a transition period for the British gambling industry 

The UKGC’s April 2020-March 2021 results will make for an interesting read, considering the amount of change that happened last year. It will also likely capture stakeholders and lawmakers’ attention, with the Gambling Act review taken into consideration. 

For sports betting, the pandemic could have worked one way or the other. Either more people will have bet to keep some form of routine, or there will have been a decline with fewer individuals attending matches and others either furloughed or laid off. 

When scratching beneath the surface, the findings will likely show an acceleration in existing trends – more people betting online and fewer doing so at land-based outlets.