UKGC data highlights impact of changing sports schedules

2021 lockdowns and changes to sporting schedules had an unsurprising impact on British gross gambling yield in 2020 and 2021, with UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) data highlighting this effect.

Covering both online and retail-based gambling via data from Licenced Betting Offices (LBOs) between March 2020 and December 2021, the UKGC’s report observed that during Q2 2021 – referring to the financial year 2021-22 – total online GGY stood at £421 million in December, meaning the total figure for Q3 decreased by 6% from the previous quarter to £1.2 million. 

Online real event betting also declined from Q2 to Q3 by 16%, a total of just under £461 million, whilst active player numbers also fell by 5% during this period, although the number of bets increased by 4%. 

Meanwhile, total LBO GGY also decreased between the second and third quarters by 1% to £533 million, although the total number of wagers placed and slot spins played increased by 3.3 billion, a rise of 4%, with the number of player accounts remaining steady. 

The UKGC observed that these are most likely a reflection of the cancellation of some sporting events in December due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many tournaments calling off activities altogether whilst some were hindered by large numbers of postponed matches due to infections. 

This is even more so the case with retail, which was not in operation for a full month between March and June 2020 whilst even after lockdown restrictions began to lift from June 2020, high street premises still faced some hurdles with regards to player time limits and customer numbers. 

The government’s regional lockdown approach throughout late 2020 also had an impact on retail operations, with betting shops in different locations subject to different restrictions, and therefore generating varying levels of turnover. 

Comparing over the counter betting to SSBT betting, OTV wagers accounted for around 31% of GGY, decreasing by 5% from Q2 to Q3 at 146 million placed with a GGY decline of 9% to £166 million. 

On the other hand, the number of SSBT bets increased by 20% from Q2 to 28 million, with a GGY during this period of £83 million, an increase of 7%. The difference between OTC and SSBT bets could be a reflection of pandemic attitudes, with customers and staff preferring this method due to it minimising the amount of contact. 

The UKGC observed: “As consumers begin to adjust to a new normal, there may be a mix of displacement of activity from OTC to SSBTs and machines, with consumers possibly wanting to limit contact with other individuals in Q3 as a result of the Omicron variant.”

Slot gaming appeared to have the most positive experience from Q2 to Q3, with the number of spins increasing by 3% to 182 billion and the number of active players rising from 5% to 9.8 million. 

Acknowledging the commercial impact of the national reopening, the UKGC stated: We recognise that the country is now entering a different phase as we adjust to life after a series of restrictions.”

On safer gambling indicators, the Commission noted that 3% of total machine sessions in Q3 lasted more than an hour – a similar rate to Q2 – but added that the data indicated ‘the potential for an increase in intensity of play’, urging operators to maintain vigilance in line with the latest guidance.

“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 regulator concluded.

“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.”

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