A Decade of Growth – Evaluating the Last 10 Years of Gambling

Gambling, unlike many other popular pastimes, can trace its root back through the millennia. Archaeologists have found evidence confirming that early humans were not only responsible for the domestication of animals, but for the creation of gambling.

It is a testament to gambling as a hobby that it has survived millennia of upheaval and change to remain incredibly popular in the modern day. Despite its long and illustrious history, gambling has perhaps undergone its biggest transformation and evolution in the past two decades with the advent of the internet.

In this article, we take a look at how gambling has continued to progress, evolve and adapt in the previous 10 years with the added ammo of technological advancements.

(The British gambling industry has become a world leader in the past 10 years.)

Gambling in 2009

The United Kingdom was one of the first countries in the world to properly legislate for online gambling when it passed The Gambling Act 2005. In that act, all forms of online gambling were made legal as well as being answerable to the newly formed gambling commission.

This act of law demanded that all forms of online gambling were conducted in a fair fashion that safeguarded customers at risk, children and other vulnerable persons. For gambling companies, it opened a whole new world of possibilities.

For the first time in modern history gambling companies in the UK had free reign to develop what they wanted and market it to a large, receptive audience. In 2009, 4 years on from The Gambling Act the industry was making its first tentative steps into the future.

New bingo sites, online casinos and sports betting sites were being formed at an astonishing rate. The 2005 law had removed any ambiguity regarding advertising and marketing, prompting more frequent advertising campaigns from online gambling companies. There were a number of successful ads that had been launched, in particular by online bingo operators. This popularity encouraged many new operators to join the market to target both existing and new market segments to their websites. Furthermore, with no signs of slowing down, affiliate businesses also entered through keeping players updated on all the latest bingo sites with new promotions due to the fierce competition amongst the operators.

Social media was beginning to catch on as well with Facebook doubling its active users to 200 million from the year before. This explosion of social media opened the door for more innovative marketing strategies which the online gambling companies were keen to exploit.

Three years prior in 2006 Labour took the uncharacteristically conservative step to encouraging the development of super-casinos. Way before Silicon Valley was a go-to buzzword for the British political elite, Las Vegas was the American establishment Britons were keen to emulate.

Tessa Jowell was one of the most prominent figures in Tony Blair’s government to back the building of super-casinos. It was seen then as a way to put Britain on the global map and increase tourism and foreign investment.

(The UK’s supercasino project started and ended with Aspers Casino in the Westfield Centre in London.)

The Turning Points

Unfortunately for Labour, their super-casino plan was firmly ditched towards the end of 2009 amid a public backlash. Manchester was the location chosen by ministers to become the ‘Las Vegas of Europe’ but that never came to fruition.

Supercasino plans were put on the backburner, but out of the lure of the public eye, the Mayor of London commissioned the building of Aspers Casino, which was eventually opened in 2011 as the UK’s first and only super casino.

Politicians hoped that this backdoor approach would lead to a cavalcade of development in other parts of the country, but at the time of writing that is yet to happen.

In terms of online gambling, the major turning point came in 2012 with the unprecedented rise of mobile use and apps. 5 years after the first release of the iPhone and the smartphone user rates were going through the roof.

More and more people were turning to their phones for entertainment, learning and shopping. In response to this, the British gambling industry heavily invested in the mobile market, pumping money into state-of-the-art mobile app development.

It was a savvy move that attracted more middle of the road customers to gamble on the go. In the current day, over 70% of British gamblers regularly do so via their mobile phones rather than tablet or computer.

That move to mobile was also a pivotal moment for the overall quality of online gambling facilities. Thanks to the advancement of mobile technology the average customer was no longer content with the shoddy, 2D offerings of traditional online gambling companies.

Many of the industry’s big names found this out the hard way with their hastily put together mobile apps receiving a flood of 1-star ratings on the Apple Store and Google Play Store respectively.

That led to further investment and collaboration with developers that sought to improve the quality, design and usability of online gambling games.

Gambling in 2019

Between 2009 and 2019 relatively little has changed in the world of land-based gambling in the UK. Aspers in London remains the only super-casino in the country and there are just 139 other casinos dotted around the island.

Online gambling, however, has not rested on its laurel and has continued to evolve and improve to entice more and more new customers. Some of the world’s biggest online gambling companies are poaching games developers from the more traditional world of video gaming to produce their casino games.

Virtual reality and augmented reality casinos are cautiously being released to the market with further developments predicted to revolutionise the industry in the coming years. Live casinos where dealers and croupiers are streamed to mobile phones, tablets and laptops are now commonplace.

In 2009 the gross gambling yield of the UK was just under £10 billion per annum, rising by 50% in 2019. The biggest growth has come from the remote sector which now represents £5 billion a year as opposed to the £1.5 billion revenues from 2009.

The gambling industry is on the verge of further development and innovation. When this article is revisited in 2029 the gambling landscape will be markedly different and will have changed much more than it has in the previous 10 years.