An Insight Into The UK’s Betting Behaviours


While the UK’s betting industry is big business, it has gone through many changes over the centuries.  A popular part of our culture for several hundred years, gambling was formally legalised in the UK through the Gaming Act of 1845, paving the way to the betting industry we know today.

However, over the past decade, innovation, competition, and technology have all dramatically changed how we bet and how we perceive it in our daily lives.

In this article, we take a look at current trends to give an insight into the UK’s betting behaviours. 

The shape of betting in the UK

Today’s betting market is vastly different from the one fifty years ago, where physical betting shops, casinos, bookmakers, and live betting – e.g., trackside at the races – were the only ways to place a wager. 

Today, the rapid rise in technology and digital platforms has revolutionised the way we can place bets by taking away the dependence on a physical bookmaker or gambling venue. 

As an ‘in-person’ industry, gambling has seen a decline in popularity over the past few years, acerbated by the Covid pandemic, according to data compiled by market analyst Statistica.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, the GGY (gross gambling yield) of the UK gambling industry was £2.4 billion. Move forward a year, and the GGY between April and September 2020 was around £0.63 billion. As well as the impact of pandemic restrictions, there has also been a steady decrease in the number of physical betting shops in the UK. There are currently around 6,700 betting shops, a 12% decrease on 2019. 

Compare these figures with online betting, and a shift to digital gambling behaviour is becoming the norm. 

The shift to online 

Today there is a vast choice of platforms that provide online casinos and sports betting, resulting in an ever-increasing rise in popularity for this form of gambling. 

While the pandemic also impacted online betting due to live sporting events being temporarily postponed or curtailed, the GGY for this sector of the gambling market is significantly higher.

According to Statistica, the gross gambling yield (GGY) recorded for the UK’s online betting market in July 2021 was around £204 million, surpassing the sector’s pre-pandemic revenue in 2019.  Remote or online gambling now accounts for more than 52% of the market share.

Popularity of sports betting

While casinos have previously dominated the online gambling industry, sports betting is now the biggest growth area. Led by football and horse betting – which collectively make up around three-quarters of the market share – followed by tennis, golf and US sports, sports betting has been growing exponentially over recent years. 

It is thought that around 5.8% of the UK adult population participated in sports betting during 2021. Interestingly, the online sports betting sector has also seen a rise in popularity of virtual sports and events, possibly accelerated by the restraints of the Covid pandemic. 

The use of a virtual race to fill the gap of the Aintree Grand National, which was cancelled in 2020, is just one example of this growing sports betting trend.  While still in its relative infancy, it is thought that the use of virtual events will become more mainstream in online sports betting over the next few years. 

Looking to the future

As well as virtual sports betting, the future of online gambling is bright. Faster, more sophisticated, and user-friendly platforms and apps are already revolutionising the UK’s betting behaviours. And the development and introduction of new technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and improved player protections can only serve to enhance the online experience. 

To this end, with the welcome return to live sporting events post-pandemic, the UK sports betting industry is expected to continue to grow and meet the needs and expectations of its on and offline users.