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iGaming Market Grows to £4.7 Billion in U.K.; Casino Sector Surpasses Poker

The latest round of statistical data released by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) on November 30 highlighted the growth of online gambling.

The figures – which cover the period between April of 2016 and March of 2017 – reveal that the “remote sector” generated a gross gambling yield (GGY) of £4.68 billion (USD$6.33 billion).

That represents a 10.1 percent increase over the corresponding period in 2015-2016.

Furthermore, online gambling now accounts for just over 34 percent of the U.K.’s entire gambling industry, which the UKGC values at £13.7 billion GGY. The iGaming sector’s market share increased by 1.5 percent year-on-year.

And while the gambling industry as a whole grew by 1.8 percent year-on-year, UKGC executive director Tim Miller singled out online gambling’s 10.1 percent rate of growth as the primary economic engine:

“These latest figures show that the gambling market is continuing to grow, particularly in the online sector.”

But even as Miller praised the growth of iGaming in the U.K., he called on operators to exercise good faith in addressing industry issues such as problem gambling and consumer protection:

“However, with such growth comes a great responsibility for operators to prevent gambling-related harm to all consumers and the public.

We would urge all gambling businesses to be acutely aware that as their market grows so too will our focus on ensuring that consumers are protected.”

The report also broke the online gambling sector down by game type, with “Casino” games generating £2.6 billion in GGY to account for 56 percent of the total iGaming industry output. Under the UKGC classification system, casino games include table games such as roulette and craps, card games like blackjack and baccarat, virtual slot machines, and poker played “peer to peer” against other people.

Traditional sports betting – or remote wagers that aren’t placed as part of an exchange or pool – made up 37.1 percent of the iGaming industry at £1.73 billion.

Bingo comprised 3.5 percent (£162 million) of the overall numbers, followed by betting exchanges 2.9 percent (£129 million), and pool betting 0.7 percent (£32 million).

When the £2.6 billion online casino sector was examined in detail, slot machine games were by far the most productive game type. Online slots generated £1.69 billion in GGY to account for 64.5 percent of the casino marketplace.

Table games produced £414 million in GGY to make up 15.8 percent of the market, while card games generated £205 million (7.8 percent).

The smallest subsector within the online casino industry was poker, which produced only £101 million – or just 3.8 percent of the U.K.’s entire iGaming output.

This continues a decidedly downward trend for the online poker market, which has contracted on a global scale over the last five years.

In March of this year, the leading online poker room PokerStars revealed that poker accounted for only 70 percent of revenue across the fourth quarter of 2016 – down from 78 percent in Q4 of 2015.

As a result, Rafi Ashkenazi – who serves as chief executive officer of PokerStars parent company The Stars Group – initiated several changes to the site’s poker offerings in an attempt to diversify the platform. Innovations such as the lottery style Spin and Go tournaments, a fantasy card game known as Power Up, and the fast-fold concept Zoom Poker were introduced to offer casino enthusiasts an entry point to PokerStars products.

Ashkenazi also spearheaded a companywide shift away from PokerStars’ high-volume professional players, hoping to attract recreational players who have fled the site in recent years.

During Q3 of this year, PokerStars reported online poker revenues of USD$221.4 million, good for a 12.5 percent increase year-on-year.

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