Football's return releases pent-up GB betting demand in June

14 August 2020

The return of major football leagues and competitons in June led to a significant increase in sports betting revenue, according to the latest figures from the GB Gambling Commission.

The latest edition of the regulator's report tracking the country's gambling market amid the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic showed a significant month-on-month increase in gross gambling yield (GGY) for online sports betting.

Gross gaming yield (GGY, stakes minus payouts) for the vertical totalled £217.5m (€241.3m/$285.1m) in June, up 115% from May. The amount of bets placed also jumped 146% month-on-month to 255.5m, while the number of active players for the vertical was up 81%.

The Commission said this was down to the return of major club football, including the English Premier League in the middle of the month. The decision by the league to broadcast all matches on television, including some on free-to-air channel, also impacted player behaviour, as did the high frequency of fixtures and kick-off times.

“The data indicates the release of pent-up demand, particularly for football-related betting and should be seen in the context of the lack of availability or reluctance of some consumers to bet in licensed betting offices,” the Commission said.

However, GGY for all other sectors of the igaming market reported month-on-month declines. Slots revenue fell 10% to £166.5m, other gaming (including casino) falling 12% to £68.5m, virtual betting down 15% to £9.6m.

Esports and poker, two verticals that thrived under lockdown, both struggled in June, with esports revenue down 25% to £3.5m. The largest decline was seen in poker, where revenue slipped 36% to £11.7m, while GGY for other forms of gaming was down 6% to £1.8m.

In terms of bets placed, slots remained some way out in front, with consumers placing 5.03bn bets in June, down 5% from May. There were drops in all other market sectors, with casino bets down 10%, virtual betting 21% and poker 31%.

Looking at active players, slots attracted the most interest, with the number of users up 1% month-on-month to 2.5m, but all other market segments saw a drop in active players during the month. The biggest drop happened in poker, where the number of active players fell 25% in June.

Total active players across the market was marginally from 14.7m in May to 14.8m in June, though the Commission noted some players may hold accounts with multiple operators.

Though players spent less time playing online, with the average session down by one minute to around 21 minutes in June, the Commission took the opportunity to warn its licensees about new challenges they may face in terms of responsible gambling.

According to the Commission, a potential marker of harm is the total number of gambling activities or products used by a consumer. Though the proportion of players using more than one gambling product fell to 35%, the regulator said operators should monitor users for any concerning signs of players gambling unsustainably across multiple verticals.

“In light of the challenges and changes brought about by the Covid-19 crisis, we have been clear that we expect operators to identify and interact with consumers where necessary,” the Commission said.