The iGaming industry has been one of the most dramatic growth areas in the global economy this century and it continues to expand rapidly, providing opportunities for technological producers, business investment and iGaming customers. And one continent: Europe, is unquestionably at the forefront of iGaming development. So why does Europe lead the way?
No other area of the world can compare to Europe when it comes to the size of the iGaming market. According to figures from 2018, online gaming revenue generated by European Union operators totalled £22.2bn. By 2022, this figure is expected to reach £30bn. To put that into a global perspective, the European iGaming sector accounts for nearly half of the world’s gambling market, and that market size is a reflection of legal, cultural and technological factors.
These days, Europeans access their online gaming through a variety of methods, whether that is using mobile gambling apps on their smartphones or through desktops, tablets or iPads. However, many nations within Europe have gambling traditions that go back centuries.
The United Kingdom and Ireland have both been home to a thriving gambling tradition. Rizk is a UK licensed casino, but is just one of many such online operations in the UK, which exist alongside land-based casinos, sports betting shops, bingo halls and amusement arcades. France has a similarly long history of gambling, though it is historically based around casinos, rather than sports betting.
It is true that historically, gambling has been restricted in many European countries, but the social and economic liberalization that has taken place over the last few decades, accelerating since the end of the Cold War, means that there are legal iGaming sectors in all of the major European nations. Five of the top 10 gambling nations, based on individual gambling activity, are located in Europe. The continent is also the wealthiest in the world, making it the perfect place for iGaming companies to operate and develop their technology.
This long-established, legal gambling market, along with the wealth of European consumers, has made Europe the ideal place for iGaming companies to base themselves. This has, in turn, led to increasing investment in iGaming technology. Many of the world’s foremost iGaming developers are located in Europe, particularly in the Scandinavian countries, where the combination of a historical gambling culture and a culture of technological innovation has proven profitable.
The result is that European iGaming brands can offer their customers extensive game rosters, which are backed by the technology of some of the world’s best software providers, while their approach to attracting and retaining customers has long been tried and tested.
While other parts of the world, such as Singapore, Macau and Las Vegas, operate as casino gaming hubs, Europe has a number of iGaming centres, with the Mediterranean island of Malta being a particularly good example of the specialization that has enabled Europe to lead the way.
Malta is sometimes referred to as the iGaming capital of the world. This is due both to the high number of iGaming operators that are based in the country, and the extent to which the iGaming industry dominates Malta’s economy. The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is one of the world’s most respected gambling authorities, authorising betting licenses to operators across Europe. Along with the UK Gambling Commission and the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority, the MGA is widely respected for the high level of requirements it imposes on license holders.
This regulatory expertise is another aspect of Europe’s iGaming dominance. Operators that apply for a license with one of the main European gambling authorities are required to adhere to strict rules in a number of areas, including data protection, customer security and fairness, which makes the European iGaming market the most secure and reliable in the world.
Challenge from US
While Europe may currently lead the way on iGaming, that lead is not guaranteed to last as other jurisdictions aim to boost their own iGaming sectors. The most significant of these challenges could come from the United States, which has recently seen a dramatic upheaval in its gambling sector.
The striking down of the 1992 PASPA Act in May 2018 paved the way for US states to legalize sports betting and many have done so. iGaming is not yet legal in most states in the US, but many experts regard this as only a temporary restriction, and once iGaming is available to all US citizens, the wealth and size of the US market could see the US become a new iGaming leader.