UKGC highlights esports growth and continued in-play betting popularity

Esports betting has become an increasingly popular product among younger bettors, who are also engaging with in-play betting much more than previous generations, according to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). 

Publishing its ‘consumer experiences and attitudes to Free Bets & Bonuses’, the Commission identified a number of prominent trends in the British betting and gambling industry with relation to product popularity, methods of wagering and responsible betting tool usage.

In particular the Commission has noted that the popularity of esports betting is increasing, with the annual growth rate of 8.5% between 2016 and 2019 attributed primarily to the preferences of young male bettors. 

Males in the 18-24 age bracket have been the most receptive to the products at 36%, this declining to a third when the demographic is expanded to 18-34 year olds, with a total of 9% of adults in general having bet on these markets in 2019. 

Young bettors are also fueling continued popularity of in-play betting according to the UKGC data, although the majority of online punters in general have engaged with this method of gambling, with three in ten betting in the previous seven days to the survey and a further 30% doing so in the previous four weeks. 

Additionally, online gambling has now become the most predominant of the betting industry’s sectors in the UK, with a GGY of £5.7 billion and comprising 40% of the overall market, with mobile phones the most common form of web-based betting.

Half of all online bets are placed via smartphone, with this method again most popular among 18-24s at three-quarters as opposed to 14% of over 65s, followed by laptops, desktop PCs and tablets – although the UKGC noted that usage of the latter three devices ‘stabilised in 2020 after years of decline’. 

Furthermore, the diversification of online gambling methods has also been demonstrated by a rise in smart TV usage, described by the Commission as a ‘niche’ platform for gambling, having doubled in usage among 18-24 year-olds and 25-34 year-olds between 2019 and 2020.

“The data paints a picture of online gambling in which smartphones are the preferred devices, but laptops, PCs and tablets remain important routes of access. It shows that despite the opportunities to gamble online ‘on the go’, most online gambling continues to be done at home,” the UKGC explained.

“The extent to which in-play betting has taken hold, and the growth of esports, is also clear to see. While online gambling does skew more towards younger people, and especially younger males, these activities are by no means confined to the younger generations.”

Summarising its findings on bonuses, most respondents stated that they were not influenced by incentives at 61%, despite over two-third stating they had received such offers during the previous 12 months, although 31% agreed that they were encouraged by these free bet or bonus incentives. 

With regards to safer gambling tools, younger gamblers were also identified as the most likely group to engage with self-exclusion and responsible gambling tools, with bettors in the 18-24 age group the most likely to have self-excluded at 14% followed by those aged 25-34 at 13%.

Overall, however, over half of gamblers informed the Commission that they were not aware of self-exclusion tools, whilst 6% in total have barred themselves from gambling and 34% are aware of such options but have not used them. 

On a metric basis, multi-operator self-exclusion, product exclusion and gambling blocking software were the least used and known-about tools, with seven in ten gamblers stating they are unaware of these methods over the past 12 months. 

Financial limits, meanwhile, were the most widely used tools across the board, with 8% of respondents stating that they have employed this method to keep in control of their gambling, followed by 5% who used a reality check. 

The UKGC detailed: “Operators are required to offer these tools, and they should provide them and promote them in a way that maximises take up from those that would benefit from them, but there will always be customers that are experiencing harm that would not opt to take up any of these gambling management tools.

“This is why it is important for operators to have effective customer interaction approaches so that harm is identified at an early point with the operator acting to reduce harm.

“We would like to see an increased awareness of the gambling management tools, and for operators to continue to improve promotion so that customers make the best use of the right tool, at the right time for them.”

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