Gambling has seen a lot of changes over the years in the UK. Some see it as one of the most liberal and open gambling markets in the world. After all, gambling adverts, endorsements and offers are commonplace. Everyone is used to seeing them in their day to day lives. More and more gambling firms are setting up in the UK because of the country's gambling laws. But have things gone too far? Some opponents of the industry think so. With opposition to gambling growing in some quarters, is a change on the horizon? In this article, we'll have a look.
More and more gambling firms are setting up in the UK because of the country's gambling laws. But have things gone too far?
Gambling has always been popular in the UK, but this popularity has grown a lot over the past decade or so. A lot of that is down to the internet, but also thanks to tie-ins and endorsements with major sports. Some other industries used to have those same tie-ins: smoking and alcohol. The tobacco industry has seen massive curbs on their ability to operate and advertise, and alcohol advertising restrictions have also come into play. Is that next for the gambling industry?
Firstly, we need to look at how gambling has grown in the UK and what the landscape looks like for punters today. Then we can have a look at what changes might come in.
How has the gambling landscape changed in the UK?
If you wanted to put a bet on 30 years ago, things weren't as easy as they are now. There were a few traditional bookmakers with high-street premises, but there wasn't the same level of advertising, and there were a number of other features that made things harder for both consumers and business owners.
Bricks-and-mortar bookmakers have been around for decades, but they haven't always been the most inviting places. Especially if you've never been in one before. Going into one for the first time could be intimidating, especially if you didn't even know how to fill out a betting slip or what the odds really meant. All of these features made growth for the industry quite hard, especially when only certain sorts of people were considered part of the target market.
The growth of online gambling and the loosening of operating laws has changed all of this. Both of these things happened at the same time to create a perfect storm of growth for casino and betting industries in the UK. We'll look at how and why in a bit.
Fixed-odds betting terminals
The betting industry has seen massive growth and a lot of this has been online. We'll look at that in a minute. But as online casino brands like, Casino777, 888, and others have grown, so have their presence on the high street. One way traditional betting shops have managed to get more and more people through their doors despite such competition online (even from their own brand's online sites) is with fixed-odds betting terminals.
These machines allow gamblers to bet £100s every minute and are highly addictive. They're the biggest earners for traditional bookies these days as it's so much easier to place regular sports bets online. These terminals have become highly controversial and many people think that they prey on problem gamblers and high-risk individuals. New laws are coming into place to restrict betting limits on these machines. Is this a welcome change or just pushing the problem elsewhere? After all, there aren't limits when you gamble online and some argue that at least problem gamblers can be spotted and offered help more easily in-store.
This is just the first wave of legislation that has affected the gambling industry and could lead to job losses. But there could be more to come.
The growth of online gambling
Let's go back in time a bit. When the internet first started taking off, gambling was one of the first industries to really capitalise on things. Just like Amazon revolutionised shopping, online bookmakers and casinos weren't far behind.
It made sense, because visiting a site and depositing some cash with your credit card was so much easier than having to travel to a bookmaker and put a bet one. At the same time in the UK, legislators started granting more licenses to online operators. They also scrapped the tax that gamblers had to pay from their winnings, making gambling even more appealing. Not only that, but bookies started altering the way their odds were shown, from fractional to decimal.
These changes helped make it much easier to attract new gamblers or people who didn't really have much experience. They could gamble from the comfort of their own home, and didn't have to visit an intimidating shop. They could pick what they wanted to gamble on more easily and get access to their money without too much hassle. That's when things really started to take off.
Advertising and endorsement
The loosening of gambling restrictions lead to increased advertising and endorsements from gambling sites. In a competitive market, betting sites and casinos wanted to get noticed. Nowadays, entire events are sponsored by gambling companies. Many football teams have betting or casino-related sponsors. It's completely commonplace, and has changed the gambling culture in the UK. Now gambling sits comfortably alongside all sorts of sports (unlike some other parts of the world). Some people aren't comfortable with this, however, and are looking for more restrictions.
What other industries have seen restrictions?
The most obvious one is the tobacco industry. This used to sponsor events and teams as well (particularly Formula One). When tobacco advertising was banned, some of these events struggled to make the money they used to. While Formula One has always had a lot of money, some smaller sports worried they might struggle to fill the gap left after tobacco advertising was banned. Many of these gaps were filled by gambling endorsements. They're a logical partner for sports events and teams. If restrictions are also applied there, what could this mean for those sports? The answer is still unclear, but the gambling industry might not enjoy the same freedom over the next few years that it has for the last couple of decades.