The global gaming market is a huge industry, with over 2.5 billion gamers around the world.
In 2019, gaming was forecast to generate a total revenue of over $152 billion, an increase of almost 10% on the previous year. In an industry this large, the UK is a clear leader in terms of participation, revenue generation and innovation. The gaming industry in the UK was estimated to be worth £3.86 billion at the start of 2019, which was more than the combined value of both the music and video sectors. Just a few months later, in April 2019, the BBC reported that the UK gaming market was worth a record £5.7 billion.
When talking about gambling, the figures are even bigger. The Gambling Commission reported a total spend of £14.5 billion in the UK between 2017 and 2018, which encompasses all forms of gambling including lotteries, bingo, sports betting, online casinos and land casinos. With the industry thriving, game developers are delivering more innovative and exciting new games and turning to the live factor, which in turn attracts even more new players. There are also more than 100,000 people in the UK directly or indirectly employed by the gambling industry, with London being one of the top cities to work in this area, and the tax revenue for the government is significant, reaching the equivalent of $3.8 billion in 2019.
A survey from the Gambling Commission in 2018 found that almost a third of UK adults have gambled in some form in the previous month, excluding National Lottery tickets, which had been purchased by 28% of those surveyed in the past month. Young adults aged between 25 and 34 had the highest percentage of gamblers at 40%. Men are more likely to gamble than women, with 37% compared to 28%. Online gambling is the most popular activity based on revenue, followed by wagers in betting shops and the National Lottery. The average online gambler holds three separate accounts.
The UK has some of the most relaxed gambling legislation in the world, which contributes to the size of the industry. However, that is not to say that betting shops and casinos have free rein. There are regulations in place and each venue or website must be fully licensed and compliant with regulations to be able to operate in the UK. Broadly speaking, the minimum age for gambling is 18 years, although there are a few exceptions to this. Young adults aged 16 and 17 are permitted to by lottery tickets, including those for the National Lottery, participate in the football pools and enjoy certain other low-stakes forms of gambling. Certain machines in family-friendly amusement arcades have no minimum age limit and can be played by anyone, including young children.
The UK government earns money from taxes which come from land casinos, offshore casinos operating online, betting shops and other gambling venues. However, one advantage for the UK public is that the government does not at present tax winnings from gambling. Players get to keep every penny of anything they win from any game or wager, which is not true in many other countries. For example, gamblers in Las Vegas have to pay a significant portion of their winnings to the government in taxes, with the amount varying depending on whether the player is a US citizen or visitor from overseas.
Casinos and other gambling establishments operating in the UK must factor taxes into their financial projections. The government takes a 15% cut of all profits. After this the casinos are required to pay for any software, hardware, affiliate marketing and other expenses before they can start making money. However, with the average online casino in the UK taking the equivalent of $500,000 per month, most still come away with a healthy profit.
Another area where the UK leads the way in the global gaming industry is as home to some of the top game developers in the world. Microgaming, which produces some of the most popular slots games for both online and land casinos, is based on the Isle of Man and is one of the leading companies making progressive slots games. Outside of the gambling arena, UK companies are responsible for some of the most popular PC and console games in the world. Rockstar North, Sports Interactive and Core Design, responsible for Grand Theft Auto, Championship Manager and Tomb Raider respectively, are all based in the UK.
The gaming industry in the UK is already one of the most respected in the world. With the growth of remote gambling, many sectors of the industry are expanding even further in terms of both revenue and participation. Remote betting increased 4.3% between 2018 and 2019, remote casinos by 3.9% and remote bingo by 12.5% in terms of gross gambling yield. European players dominate the global gambling market and the UK comprises 15% of the European market demographic, despite having a relatively small population. More online casinos hold a gambling license for the UK than in any other country and there are more than 33.6 million active accounts registered at licensed online casinos operating in the UK. Despite not taking any tax from players’ winnings, gambling and gaming is a highly lucrative industry sector for the UK government.