UKGC’s Pathfinders, Planning a Safer iGaming Route to the Top


There’s still a big hill to climb, some might even call it a mountain, but the safer gambling message, inexorably, seems to be getting through to iGamers – especially the younger, new generation punters who are going to drive the future of the industry.

That’s one of the fascinating and revealing conclusions of a major online survey recently conducted by the regulatory UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

Results of the survey, titled: “Consumer Experiences and Attitudes to Free Bets and Bonuses”, were published this week (February 15) after the UKGC crunched data gleaned from 8,000 resident British adults aged 18-years and over during the last two quarters of 2021.

Younger gamblers, in the 18-24-years-old age group, were “the most likely to engage with self-exclusion and responsible gambling tools”, the UKGC concluded in its survey.

Some 14 per cent of this cohort, and 13 per cent of the 25-34-years-old group, said they would “most likely” self-exclude if they were nudging responsible gambling parameters; whilst six per cent of all survey respondents revealed they had barred themselves before they hit danger.

Nevertheless, as progressive operators in the gambling industry well know, there is still a long way to go on the journey to safer and better betting.

Over half of the respondents, for example, said they were not aware of self-exclusion tools.

And when it came to self-regulation, only eight per cent of respondents said they used financial limits to check excess, while five per cent said they used algorithmic reality checks.

As can be expected, and lauded, the UKGC urged operators and platforms to keep up the responsible gaming fight.

“There will always be customers [who] are experiencing harm [and] would not opt to take up any of these gambling management tools,” the commission conceded.

Esports, a Thing Now

“But operators are required to offer these tools. They should provide them and promote them in a way that maximises take-up from those that would benefit from them,” they stressed.

In further takeaways from the iGaming survey, the UKGC reiterated truths, many of them self-evident, which have been coagulating for the last decade — and market transitions that have been supercharged by the Covid19 pandemic.

Gambling, irrevocably, has moved away from the traditional cliché of glamourous Monte Carlo and the Vegas Strip to iGaming.

With an annual Gross Gambling Yield of £5.7 billion (US$7.75bn/€6.82bn), online betting now makes up 40 per cent of the UK gambling market, with mobile phones the most common form of web-based betting.

And esports—soon to be designated as a bona fide sport by the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games—has really become a “thing” now; betting on the sport growing by annual 8.5 per cent between 2016 and 2019 – particularly among males in the 18-24-years-old bracket.

In-play betting is also particularly popular among the younger cohorts, noted the UKGC.

Almost a third of the 8,000 online punters who took part in the survey said they had placed in-play bets in the month prior to being contacted.

Half of all online bets were placed via smartphone, followed by laptops, desktop PCs and tablets.

“The extent to which in-play betting has taken hold, and the growth of esports, is clear to see,” said the commission. “While online gambling does skew more towards younger people, and especially younger males, these activities are by no means confined to the younger generations.”

Summarising its findings on the sometimes-controversial issue of bonuses, a third of respondents agreed that they were “encouraged” by free bet or bonus incentives.

“This is why it is important for operators to have effective customer interaction approaches so that harm is identified at an early point with the operator acting to reduce harm,” the commission cautioned.

“We would like to see an increased awareness of gambling management tools, and for operators to continue to improve promotion so that customers make the best use of the right tool, at the right time.”