UK online betting industry on the path to recovery after a mid-season pause from sports


UK bookmakers have experienced tough times during the Covid-19 pandemic with all major sports being postponed or even cancelled, resulting in revenue taking a big hit.

The ones able to persevere through this period can now rejoice as recent data from the UKGC shows a positive trend for the sports betting industry once again. With the start of major sports in May and even more so in June, the betting industry managed to recover and even saw a boost in revenue. Much of this was thanks to the return of top-level football in the UK and Germany that had an immediate positive impact for these bookies.

Recent UKGC data shows that the gross gambling yield (GGY) for real event betting is up 115% between May and June, from £101 million to £217.5 million, after reaching bottom levels of £61 million in April. This is a higher level than the average GGR pre lockdown. In addition, the number of active players slipped 55% between March and April this year, and then rose by 81% between May and June. According to data from the biggest operators, this represents approximately 80% of the online gambling market in the UK.

Leadstar Media, the Stockholm based lead generation company active in the iGaming industry, revealed that it’s UK flagship site experienced a similar pattern with an uptick in traffic and a big increase in business.

Leadstar Media CEO Eskil Kvarnström commented to SBC News: “A great barometer for our business and for the industry as the whole is Bookiesbonuses.”

After a challenging spring, Kvarnström sees positive signs for the betting industry as a whole: “What we have been seeing with our flagship site, mirrors what has been happening in the UK and Germany, and the return to football across Europe has brought a significant boost in traffic that bodes well for the industry as a whole.”

And he could very well be right, with European football set to start the new season in mid-September there won’t be the same long drought that we are used to seeing during the summer. The Premier League is set to begin on September 12 together with La Liga, while Serie A and Bundesliga will kick-off on September 1 and 18 respectively, though without any spectators in the stands. This should be music to the ears of bookmakers that have been struggling in the past six months. While it’s still too early to go back to stadiums and watch sports live, for the average punter, there will be tons of opportunities to back their teams this fall.

New changes on the horizon

Since the introduction of The Gambling Act 2005 there haven’t been any major changes to legislation regarding online gambling, despite a big increase in the number of online gambling operators in the past couple of decades. The UK government understands that problems might arise due to the quick expansion of the online gambling industry, and they created UKGC to hold bookmakers responsible for following the Gambling Act. However, recent discussions suggest that there might be new changes affecting both players and bookmakers to come.

In April APBGG launched a review of the UK’s Gambling Act, to determine what changes have to be made to the Gambling Act 2005. The review will be finished this winter and accompanied by a report. Exactly what changes will be presented are still unknown at this point, but they should be up to date with the technical and social developments since the adoption of the act.

Additionally, earlier this year in April, deposits with credit cards were banned across all bookies in the UK after reports that nearly 22% of UK gamblers used a credit card as their deposit method. While this didn’t sit well with all players and most operators did see their profit drop, the Gambling Commission said their priority is to protect the consumers and this measure was one way of doing so.

Although no more major changes are likely to come into effect in 2020, we are likely to see them in the coming years. What they’ll bring for players and operators we can only guess, but it’s vital that the right balance is found between player protection and freedom of choice. A recent example of how not to regulate gambling can be seen in Sweden, where authorities have failed to keep players at licensed companies and have instead pushed them further away from the regulated market by over regulating.