AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 28.02.2022 · last updated 28.02.2022

This time last year, with a major impact of COVID on everyday life being that the vast majority of the population found themselves confined to their homes, the online gambling industry found itself with both new customers and increased activity from existing ones.

Online poker, for example, was the natural recipient of increased traffic, with newcomers and hitherto dormant or less active poker fans and would-be greats of the virtual baize flocking to online tables in numbers that justified the period being called a veritable boom. We might not have seen levels matching the time online poker (and online gambling in general) originally became a global phenomenon, but it was impressive nonetheless.

But however much of a boom this last couple of years has been for this sector, we all want life to return to an albeit tweaked version of ‘normal’ – not least to once again being afforded the freedom of movement that pre-COVID was a given but, two years later, will initially feel to many like a luxury, something to be savoured and better appreciated.

Being able to once again avail ourselves of life’s opportunities will of course mean such pastimes as online gaming and gambling will return to being one of many choices as opposed to one of very few, so the industry must acquiesce to the nature of the ebb and flow of traffic gradually finding a new level. It’s not all bad news, of course, as there will be those who during COVID had their interested rekindled and piqued and who will continue to participate.

With this in mind, just as it proved interesting – and useful – to investigate the increased activity prompted by the circumstances brought about by COVID-related restrictions over the last couple of years, the implications of the easing of lockdown conditions are equally important. To this end, the UK Gambling Commission has produced data to highlight how gambling behaviour has changed in response to these measures being relaxed in Great Britain. Given the extent of the government’s latest intention to get the UK back to normal – even announcing Thursday’s Freedom Day for good measure – it’s all the more important to acquaint ourselves with these comparative numbers.

The data focuses on online and in-person gambling with Licensed Betting Operators (LBOs) that are found on Britain’s high streets, for the period between March 2020 and December 2021. Note that the results cannot be compared directly with previous years because the circumstances in which companies operated were not always the same due to various restrictions. However, the data is nonetheless worthy of our interest.

(N.B. GGY, below, refers to Gross Gambling Yield – namely the amount retained by operators after the payment of winnings prior to operating cost deductions)

  • Total online GGY in December of just less than £421m brought Q3 (October – December) GGY to £1.2bn. This was a decrease of 6% from Q2, with overall total bets increased by 4% and no significant change in the number of active accounts.
  • LBO GGY decreased 1% to £533m between Q2 and Q3, with the number of total bets increasing to 3.3bn.

Regardless of statistics, the increasing importance of the awareness of the potential negative impacts gambling and betting can have is especially relevant today, given how so many have had to adjust on numerous levels to the sometimes difficult circumstances created by various COVID implications. Consequently, the Gambling Commission’s suggested measures, and operators themselves looking to protect their customers will see the landscape change in the future but, hopefully, any tweaks will be balanced and not too restrictive.

The UK has always had a well-rounded attitude to gambling and betting, so we can expect a robust market to remain so as the effects of COVID on society continue to diminish, with those who wish to enjoy what the operators have to offer able to do so in a safe and responsible environment. Here’s to a healthy 2022…

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