Despite the shocking cost gambling addiction has on the United Kingdom’s government and society, the scale of industry in the country continues to grow.
According to data presented by SafeBettingSites.com, with total gross revenue of $12.5bn, the United Kingdom is the world’s largest regulated online gambling market.
Online casinos and sports betting sites, virtually non-existent two decades ago, today bring billions of dollars in revenue each year. The entire industry has grown rapidly because online gambling is accessible and relatively easy to start. Moreover, it offers a much wider range of games and betting options than most brick-and-mortar casinos.
So far, the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of regulating online gambling. Since 2007, online gambling has been regulated by the UK Gambling Commission, set up as a result of the Gambling Act of 2005. A number of games fall under the jurisdiction of the Commission, namely poker, lottery, bingo, sports betting, and other casino games.
As the largest regulated online gambling industry, the United Kingdom has outstripped even the United States, which has an almost five times larger population. Last year, the US online gaming industry grossed around $11bn, or $1.5bn less than the UK market. With total gross revenue of $6.5bn, Australia sits in a high third place. Italy and France follow, with $4.5bn and $3.8bn in revenue, respectively.
While online gambling brings billions of dollars in revenue yearly, it also causes enormous costs to UK society.
According to a Public Health England report published in 2021, gambling causes an estimated $198 million direct cost to the UK government due to addiction-related criminal activity. A further $173 million loss comes from the harm gambling causes to employment, education, and finances.
However, the negative mental and physical health effects of gambling by far outweigh the costs related to crime. When accounting for the intangible costs felt across the country, the total cost of harm associated with gambling comes to an annual sum of $1.58bn, which is still only one-seventh of the industry’s revenues.
This jaw-dropping figure will likely continue rising as the entire European online gaming industry, including the UK as the leading market, is expected to grow by 8% year-over-year and hit a $42.2bn value in 2023.