UK online Q4 GGY rises 1% but UKGC warns against yearly comparison

The British betting and gaming industry’s post-pandemic recovery is on track according to recent UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) figures. 

Published on the regulator’s website, the data revealed total online GGY during the first quarter of the financial year (April-June 2022), rose by 1% from Q4 to £1.2bn. The number of active accounts, meanwhile, rose by 5%, as did the number of bets and spins.

Retail betting also maintained its bounce back against difficult post pandemic trading conditions, increasing by 6% quarter-to-quarter to £584m, with the number of total bets and spins in Britain’s LBOs rising by 3% to 3.3bn.

However, the Commission has warned against making comparisons to the previous year, noting ‘operating circumstances’ have varied greatly from 2020 to 2022 due to lockdown conditions and other COVID-19 impacts. 

This is particularly true in the case of retail, with betting shops and brick-and-mortar casinos closed for significant portions of 2020 and 2021. 

Even when high-street bookies were open, there were several months when certain restrictions were still in place, such as the length of time customers could spend in-store. 

“Caution is advised when making any year-on-year comparisons between some months during the period of this data collection, due to differing operating circumstances between 2020 and 2022,” the Commission explained.

“Comparison should also not be made with the industry statistics dataset, as the market impact data may include free bets and bonuses.”

On the gaming side, the number of slot sessions lasting one hour increased by 5% to 8.4 million quarter-to-quarter, with around 7% of all sessions lasting for over 60 minutes.

However, in contrast with the increase in bet slips and rise in hour-long slot play, the average slot session length dropped by one minute to 17 minutes.

Slots GGY reached £565m during the quarter, a Q4-Q1 growth rate of 4%, whilst the number of spins rose by 5% to 18.7bn and the number of average monthly active accounts increased by 4% to 3.6m.

The publication of the data follows the UKGC’s confirmation that Britain’s problem gambling rate has fallen from 0.4% in 2021 to 0.2% in 2022. 

However, the Commission has urged operators to remain vigilant on industry standards and responsibility. Although problem gambling has fallen generally, the UKGC noted two weeks ago that 16-24 year olds were experiencing a rate of 0.8%.

“We continue to expect extra vigilance from operators as consumers are impacted in different ways by the circumstances brought on by the pandemic and the wider economic environment,” the UKGC statement read.

“Many people will still feel vulnerable as a result of the length of the pandemic period, further uncertainty about their personal or financial circumstances or readjusting budgets and time as life returns to normal with a wider set of finance drivers.”

The Commission concluded by encouraging operators to directly interact with customers when triggers are reached and avoid ‘any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes’ as customers continue to adjust to the ‘new normal’.

Firms have also been urged to take care when onboarding new customers and making decisions on affordability checks which ‘reflect the environment we are in’ – likely referring to the ongoing costs of living criss, which has been highlighted by safer gambling organisations such as GamCare

Finally, operators have been reminded to follow the UKGC’s strengthened guidance maintained since the first lockdown and to take data into account. 

This follows the planned issuing of new guidance on 12 September, which will require operators to consider what constitutes a strong indicator of harm, when to use automated systems and processes and how to evaluate the impact of customer interactions.

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