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Why 2016 was a record growth year in the UK gambling industry

29 March 2017, 17:22 CET

Whatever your political stance, 2016 was an absolute rollercoaster ride. From Brexit causing the biggest drop in the value of the pound in decades to the US presidential election casting market doubt across the world, the British economy has taken a battering, with lots of questions marks hanging over the future financial climate.

One industry that simply shrugs off political swings and recessions however is gambling. The online gaming industry specifically has been growing year on year, going completely against the grain in some instances. More people than ever are signed up to one or more gambling websites, whether it's casino gaming, sports betting or online bingo. This continued growth and seemingly constant demand is contributing positively to both national and local economies. Gaming companies are flourishing, more tax is being collected and most importantly, jobs are being created.

The UK's total gambling yield in 2015 was £13.6bn, up almost £2.5bn from 2014. When the gambling commission release figures in May, growth in terms of percentage is expected to be even higher. The key takeaway from these figures is what this means for the economy. According to the gambling commission's annual report, over 100,000 people were employed in the gambling industry, either working in physical casinos, betting shops and arcades or as employees of online-only gaming companies. Tax revenues are also projected at just under £5bn. Although 'physical' gambling locations such as bookmakers and casinos are still big business, the industry's online presence is where all eyes are focused.

A key driver for success in 2016 was undoubtedly the incredible ease of access to the internet via mobile devices. An estimated 50 million people in the UK own a smartphone, with many spending hours of their lives glued to mobile devices. This interconnected relationship we now have with our phones and tablets is a fairly new trend and we can do almost anything within a few swipes or taps. This rise in device usage has spelled great news for online gambling companies, who can endlessly advertise their services via email, text, web adverts and within apps, then get players gambling anywhere, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Before the digital revolution, gamblers would have travel to the bookies or dress up and head out for an expensive night at the casino. Now, after logging in and depositing funds gamblers can enjoy everything from virtual slot machines to live casino gaming via video stream, complete with living, breathing dealers.

This tendency to lean towards mobile gaming is possibly the number one reason why the gaming industry is booming. Traditional arcades are actually experiencing lower market share, possibly due to the online gaming experience maintaining the element of fun without users having to waste time travelling anywhere.

Another key element is much more ubiquitous advertising. One example segment of the industry, online bingo, has opened up an almost brand new market with millions of new users abandoning physical bingo halls and playing from their phone or tablets. This is largely thanks to targeted mainstream advertising campaigns across a huge variety of mediums, including prime-time television.

As with any recession proof industry, it will be interesting to see if there is a point where growth of the gambling experience could slow down. Market saturation and a population that is more wary of the dangers of gambling addiction have been worries in the past, but it seems they have hardly made a dent so far. As it stands, it looks like gambling will be in double digit growth for a while yet, with further innovations like VR gaming bound to make their mark in 2017 and further.

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