As a fixture of the entertainment circuit, the casino has always been one of the most popular best places to enjoy a night out. But as we move forward in the 21st century, the gaming industry has become a completely different scene when compared to its humble beginnings. Technology has taken over, a quick game of poker has become much easier and we've got a whole host of casino games at our fingertips. The UK's online casino front is becoming a dominant feature of our desktop and mobile devices, but just how has this rise to fame come about? And what are the key features and behavioural patterns of the UK's online casino industry, the likes of blackjack and roulette, and its gamers?
PLAYING ON THE GO
Massive developments in the field of technology have allowed society to undertake online activities wherever they please, even the ones that previously have been restricted to the desktop PC. We are now in the age of the smartphone and other 'on-the-go' devices, such as laptops and tablets, as well as the latest gadgets like the iWatch. It’s understandable that there has been a huge increase in the amount of users taking to these platforms, especially in the last three years.
Although there has still been a steady growth in people using the internet on desktop devices, more users are now going mobile for their searching needs, whether it's a quick browse on a department store’s website, or trying their hand on one of the UK's online casino apps.
In 2013, research showed that the number of people using desktop and mobile devices was almost equal - both registering over 1.6 billion on a global scale. However, figures for both 2014 and 2015 show a distinct change in consumer behaviour. Prior to 2013, desktop was always number one, scoring higher in global users compared to any other platform. Yet in the two years following 2013, there came a noticeable change in the patterns. The number of global users for mobile devices had overtaken the desktop models and become the market leader, with the figures rising toward the two billion mark.
The online casino industry in the UK has been able to take advantage of this latest trend. Since 2008, there has been a significant rise in those participating in online casino gaming within the UK, rising from 9.7% to 15.9% of the general adult population.
According to the Gambling Commission, there are 176 registered remote casino activities regulated under the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 – a significant increase compared to those under the Gambling Act of 2005 . All of the main online casino companies have their own remote apps for smartphone and tablet.
As one of the sector leaders and more innovative brands in the online casino market, 888casino has developed their app to cater for the user's needs, making casino gambling easier than ever. These new apps also allow gamers to develop their strategies for poker or the roulette from the comfort of their home, rather than having to go to a 'bricks and mortar' casino. And it has massively paid dividends to the UK's industry, with remote online casino gaming drawing in a huge £834.25m of revenue – by far the highest figure within the remote gambling sector, eclipsing betting, bingo and the pools.
The convenience of being able to play all your favourite games on the go has been a major boost for the UK's online casino scene, pioneering a new way of gaming and setting a precedent for the future of gambling.
GAME OF CHOICE
Everyone has their favourite casino game, whether it’s a spin of the roulette wheel or a hand of cards at the blackjack table. But with the mobile casino, every game you can think of is at your disposal, you can play whatever you want, for however long you want. The queues or busy tables of the land casinos are no longer applicable, you just load up the app or go on the website and you arrive straight at the table, ready to play.
But is there a difference between what games online casino users in the UK are playing, compared to those going to the 'bricks and mortar' establishments?
When you think of a casino, your mind immediately goes to the likes of the aforementioned games, dealing out cards, spinning the roulette wheel and the roll of the dice at baccarat. But the online casino goes against the idea of the stereotypical casino, with statistics suggesting the UK's gamers are taking a step away from the traditional games in favour of more modern, user-friendly alternatives.
According to the Gambling Commission, it’s the slot machine which drives the highest figures, totalling £532.54m of revenue, almost two-thirds of the entire amount spent in the UK's remote casinos. Now, this raises an important question: are we choosing slots games as we enjoy them more, or because they are easier to understand that grasping the concept of a basic blackjack strategy?
As previously stated, from 2008 to 2014 there was a 6% increase in the adult population of the UK playing at online casinos – but whether these new gamers know how to play the more traditional, cerebral games such as poker or baccaratis another thing. With the rise in popularity of social games, such as Candy Crush Saga, playing the slots may be a more lucrative proposal to the UK's gamers. Why learn all the complicated rules of Texas Hold'em when you can simply swipe your screen or flick your mouse a few times and, arguably, have a better chance of winning (the RTP on online slots is 97%, compared to 85% in land casinos), it almost seems a no-brainer for the tech-based gamblers of the day.
Interestingly, out of the big three game types (card, table and slots), it's the classic card game which brings in the least cash – contributing £67.7m (8%) of the total made by the UK's online casinos. Table games still seem to be a popular choice with players, but is it purely because table games like roulette are easier to play and understand than grasping the rules of card offerings? Especially with the tendency to game on-the-go, this could be playing a pivotal role.
HERE COMES THE MONEY
The online casino gaming boom in the UK has led to a huge upturn in the outlook of the industry's financial future, not only in terms of the figures expected to be generated but the amount being held in the gamers' accounts.
Take a look at the figures from the Gambling Commission's annual report (from April 2014 to March 2015) and you'll get a picture of just how much the industry is worth. The entire industry is said to generate a huge £3bn per annum, a figure that’s set to increase even further when the next report is released in June 2016. The latest figures only include five months of the new Gambling Act of 2014, which states that all UK-facing gambling operators require a UKGC licence. In just five months from 1st November 2014, the gambling industry as a whole generated £1.45bn, compared to the £1.1bn in the previous 12 months . And with the online blackjack tables and roulette wheels already contributing the lion's share ofrevenue, it’s expected to well and truly knock it out of the ballpark in the coming years.
Deloitte's Betting and Gaming expert Simon Oaten commented on the boosted finances within the UK's online casino sector after the company released their annual report, stating that the industry, "continues to make a significant contribution to the UK economy”. He goes on to discuss how:
"Changing technology, such as mobile, smartphone and contactless payments, and regulation, including point of consumption and machines, will have a direct impact on the future contribution of the sector. Each will have the potential to drive significant change in the next 24 months."
It's all good and well having the money coming into the marketplace, but it's vitally important that it stays there too – a trend seen in the amount of cash being kept within the UK's online casino accounts. In the period of November 2014 to March 2015 (the first five months of the new gambling regulations), the total of funds being held in these accounts stood at a huge £463.35m spread across a little more than 25 million users – an average of just over £18 per account.
Just short of £20 per user is a pretty decent return, and with the amount of memberships rising, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this number get higher and higher. The more business they can drum upand the more money online casinos can retain as a result, the more exciting developments we are sure to see in the UK.
IS AGE JUST A NUMBER?
Like we've already said, more people are taking to the online casino phenomenon, but is there an increase of players within a specific age demographic?
The answer: Yes.
Research shows that, although the number of gamers over the age of 55 is slowly increasing, they still aren't fully sold on the idea of the online casino. The study found that the elder generation is more likely to partake in the National Lottery or to throw some money on the horses, rather than trying out poker or blackjack.That said, a tenth of the UK's over-55s are active remote gamers, a rise from 4.6% eight years ago.
The patterns for both the 18-34 and 35-54 groups tends to be similar. The numbers for these gamers did drop ever so slightly in early 2014, but have come back strongly by posting figures of 18.9% and 17.6% respectively.
The UK's online casino industry is developing into one of the country's most important sectors – not only for the economy, but also for the social aspect it offers. And with more and more gamers signing up to try their hand at online gaming, you can expect this sector to keep on growing.