Which Type of Gambling Is Most Popular in the UK?

By in UK on

According to the latest stats published by the UK Gambling Commission, UK gamblers bet a massive £14.5 billion last year. Yes, you read that correctly — that’s billion, not million.

That figure includes the gross gaming revenue across multiple sectors, including both online and offline gambling. After reading the summary of this latest report, I began to wonder, “What type of gambling is most popular in the UK?”

I had an intuitive feeling that sports bettors would be the biggest group. However, I wasn’t so sure about which group bet the most money. So, I dug into the data, and here’s what I found regarding which type of gambling is most popular in the UK. This is a breakdown of gambling in the UK by the numbers.

Some Headline Findings

Before breaking the industry down section by section and finding out which type of British gambler bets the most, I dug into the infrastructure of the UK gambling industry. Here are some key stats.

  • There are 8,423 betting shops across the UK. Brands like William Hill and Ladbrokes dominate the landscape in all four countries.
  • There are 183,813 gaming machines in the UK. That includes fruit machines in pubs and any other type of gaming machine which requires a UKGC license to operate.
  • There are 152 casinos in Britain. This includes big franchises like Genting, world-famous casinos like The Hippodrome, and small-time operators all over the country.
  • There are 650 bingo halls all over the UK. That number is up 1.1% from the previous year despite the rise of online bingo.
  • There are 1,639 licensed arcades in the UK. These even exist in places like Northern Ireland, where casinos are still illegal for now.
  • In total, including all of the above, there are 2,757 operators licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.

Phew! That’s a lot of places to make a wager, whatever kind it may be. A quick calculation tells us that there’s one betting shop for every 7,832 people in the country. I suppose that likely equates to one in each town of any significant population, and lots clustered in major cities like London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast. However, there’s only one casino per 434,472 people, and they’re virtually nonexistent outside of medium and large-sized cities.

All of these establishments provide 106,670 jobs for UK citizens. Newspapers often overlook this side of gambling when they report all the doom and gloom of gambling. It’s a mega-industry in this country, and to either cripple it or shut it down would be extremely foolish from an economic point of view.

After understanding this, I was feeling fairly good about my prediction regarding which type of gambling is most popular in the UK. I initially thought sports bettors made up the biggest sector. My logic told me that there couldn’t be this many betting shops unless the demand was there.

What Does the Money Say?

The first thing I’m certain of is that more and more money is migrating online. When you consider that the average age of a UK resident is 40 and that the number of UK gambling sites is increasing exponentially, it isn’t difficult to understand what direction this industry is heading.

I looked at the revenue by sector, and here’s what I found.

  • Betting accounted for £8.42 billion in revenue and £1.37 billion in yield.
  • Bingo generated £1.01 billion in revenue and 355.28 million in yield.
  • There is no revenue figure for casinos, but the yield was £1.07 billion.

Of this, remote betting generated a total of £115,456 million. Here’s a quick breakdown of the sector-by-sector numbers.

  • Remote betting generated £26.79 million.
  • Remote bingo generated £1.54 million.
  • Casino gaming generated £87.01 million.
  • Pool betting brought in £99.48 million.

While it bugs me that I couldn’t find an exact revenue figure for casino gaming, it’s clear from this data that sports betting is indeed the biggest gambling sector in the UK. That’s true, at least when it comes to profits for operators and the number of locations to bet. However, there isn’t much in it. If I had to guess, I’d say that casino games generate more revenue, even if the profit is a little lower.

What did I learn about online gambling? It isn’t yet as big as I thought it was, and there’s still lots of room for growth. However, I’m sure the numbers are a lot bigger than this when gambling sites without UKGC licences are factored in.

Other Interesting Stats and Facts

While digging around in the UKGC’s data, I decided to let my curiosity take me wherever it wanted. Here are some other interesting facts I learned about gambling in the UK.

  • The National Lottery generated £2.99 billion in profits and contributed £1.5 billion to good causes. This is more profit than the other three forms of gambling combined.
  • In terms of the total number of machines across the UK, bingo is the winner. There are 74,692 bingo machines. There are 33,324 betting machines, and 3,305 machines offering casino games.
  • Of the £8.42 billion generated by betting, only £257.52 million of that was on-course betting.
  • Of the big-name betting shops, William Hill has the most premises. There are 2,282 William Hill betting shops in the UK. The runner-up is Ladbrokes with 1,849 betting shops.
  • There are 846 roulette tables, 545 blackjack tables, and 172 baccarat tables in UK casinos. There are 3,783 electronic gaming machines.

Conclusion

When we consider all forms of UK gambling, the National Lottery is the biggest of the lot. It’s staggering to think that the lotto made more profits than all of the others combined. Then again, every newsagent and filling station in the country sells tickets, and it’s not even considered “gambling proper” by most people, so it’s much more socially acceptable.

When it comes to the three main “gambling proper” sectors, sports betting is the biggest of the lot. However, casino gaming isn’t far behind it in terms of profitability. While no exact revenue figures are available, I’m fairly sure that casino gaming generates more in terms of sheer cash.

As for online gambling, the key takeaway is that it’s still not as big as land-based gambling. It will continue to grow and eat away at market share steadily in the future.

Ultimately, UK gambling is massive, and while responsible operators are scaling back on TV ads, I predict that it won’t lead to any dramatic fall in revenue. The UK is gambling-crazy, and that’s a fact that will remain true no matter how the figures reported here change in the months and years to come!

Oliver Hughes

Based out of London, I began freelance writing for the UK section of GamblingSites.org in October of 2019. Having worked in the gambling industry for over 10 years, I now have the pleasure of adding this site to my list of accomplishments as a casino writer. ...

View all posts by Oliver Hughes
Email the author at: [email protected]