Gambling in the UK – A Brief History

The UK gambling industry has a net worth of 14.4 billion pounds and is one of the biggest in the world. Gambling has been one of the most popular recreational activities for centuries in the United Kingdom. It was usually in the form of horse racing where people used to bet on horses according to their winning probability.

This has been the favourite gambling theme of British people for more than three centuries. If you dig a bit deeper into the history of UK gambling, you’ll find that King Charles II was an avid sportsperson who was also a jockey in 1671. Horse racing remained a favourite until the 18th century when the availability of railways further facilitated the growth of this sport.

Horse Race in the 1600's
Horse Race in the 1600’s

While the UK online slots and casino sites listed here at Spin Bonus are a far cry to what it used to be hundreds of years ago, it definitely has its deep roots and links in history. Gambling since then is heavily regulated in the UK

In this article, we take a look at the past, present and future of the UK gambling industry. We’ll discuss what it used to look like hundreds of years ago, what is the current scenario and what will be the future of gambling in the United Kingdom.

Gambling In The 1800s England

Queen Anne lotto ball

While gambling was there several years before the 18th century, let’s begin with the 1800s itself. So, during this period, the state lottery was a tremendous success which initially started with the Queen Anne Lotteries of the early 1700s. This format of gambling offered the benefits of both cost-effective fantasy with quick outcomes and rational calculations.

There used to be no aggressive losers like there used to be in card games and also there was no fixing and plotting like there was in horse racing. For these reasons, lotteries gained significant popularity and not just that, they were a great source of treasury and provided great sums for wars. During the reign of Queen Anne, there were about 7 lottery loans from 1711 to 1714. These yielded about £9,000,000 from which about £2,734,000 was reserved for the winners.

In 1815, with the defeat of Napoleon, the war period came to an end and there was peace all around, no lotteries were required for financing the wars. This was the main reason why lotteries were discontinued in 1826.

From there onwards gambling took a different turn, there were different styles of it for different sections of society – upper, middle and working class. Obviously, gambling for upper-class families meant high stakes, high losses and the common venue used to be elite clubs that were highly sophisticated with no violence and a negative atmosphere.

For middle-class families, gambling used to take place at homes with limited stakes and minimum competition. It wasn’t really about winning or losing, instead it was more of a general meeting with the goal of genial and camaraderie conversation. Here, youngsters were also allowed to join as it was believed that this recreational activity improves their mental math abilities.

When Was Gambling Legalised In The UK?

On September 1, 1960, the Betting and Gaming Act was passed which offered a way for betting halls, shops and casinos to open freely on the high streets of Britain. Before this act, gambling was not legal. There were no legal casinos, bingo shops or betting halls. Horse racing was the only legal form of betting at this time.

The man in power during this was Harold MacMillan whose government believed that this act will put an end to illegal gambling and will allow the gamblers to walk into legal shops and play legally. Later the Betting and Gaming act followed the Royal Commission in 1951 on Lotteries, Betting and Gaming which considered gambling to be “harmless” and recommended that it should be legalised. And not to forget, it wasn’t legalised thinking that it would raise funds for the government but it was solely for recreational purposes.

Gaming Machines in Pubs, Casinos & Bingo Halls

This bill not only legalised the betting shops but also allowed gaming machines inside the pubs. Casinos and bingo halls were also legalised. However, there was a condition that money should only be taken from the membership charges. During the first 5 years of the act, more than 1000 casinos were set up around the UK. Welshman George Alfred James was considered to be the first legal casino.

The 1990s Saw the Introduction of Online Gambling

first UK betting shop

Barbuda and Antigua passed an act in 1994 called the Trade and Processing Act which intended to grant permissions for opening online casinos. Before the introduction of online casinos, there was a gambling software developed by Microgaming which is a famous software company. In essence, the first online casinos were introduced in 1994. After the establishment of Kahnawake Gaming Commission in 1996, online gambling was regulated in the Mohawk Territory and gaming licences were issued to several other casinos and poker rooms across the globe. The main goal behind this act was to keep online gambling activities transparent and fair.

It was the 1990s, when online gambling gained a significant amount of fame, during 1996, there were just fifteen online casino sites which later increased to 200 in the following year. Online gambling revenues grossed a whopping amount of $830 million in 1998 alone. Then, the first online poker rooms were introduced in the same year. Later in 1999, another act called the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act was passed in the US senate. According to it, no organisation or company could offer any online gambling activity or product to US citizens. Thankfully, it didn’t pass and later multi-player gambling was also introduced in the same year. And the rest is history. Now there are millions of online gambling websites and platforms around the world, although there are still a few countries where gambling is illegal.

UK Online Gambling Facts & Figures

The UK has a long tradition of gambling and is one of the few regions in the world where online gambling sites are thriving. But this liberal perception is not only limited to traditional betting; it also encompasses online betting. Today the UK is one of the regions with the most progressive online gambling laws in the world. Many consider the UK as the mecca of online gambling since players can make nearly any type of bet legally be it on online slots & table games like roulette & blackjack or sports betting. Besides, gambling is perceived more as a hobby than a job. This means that the profits obtained by UK online gambling are not subject to any type of tax.

UK Online Gambling Laws

In the UK, there is a turbulent legal history of gambling but was truly legalised in 1960 when the first legal framework for betting was created. Prior to this, there was no type of sanction for gambling activity. By early 2000, the UK gambling law was expanded. A new set of regulations and restrictions were added to make the world of gambling more culturally acceptable. Yet, these laws were not intended to restrict legal gambling access but rather to protect the most vulnerable sectors of the population, such as children.

Online gambling in the UK is known as ‘remote gambling.’ This is a broader definition to encompass all forms of online gambling, including online betting sites and apps. Certain laws must govern these activities. In fact, all citizens of that region can place bets online as long as they meet two specific requirements.

The first is that you must be at least 18 years old when placing bets. The second rule is that all bets must be placed on online sites with a legitimate remote gaming license. It is important to note that UK citizens have access to a wide range of betting options, both non-remote and remote. They turn out to be a legal and popular form of entertainment, which is why there are a lot of options to enjoy these activities among bettors.

The Growth of Online Gambling

Because the UK gambling tax regime is very beneficial, and its friendly policies towards this sector have made it one of the most important markets in the world of chance. Not surprisingly, the United Kingdom has the highest rate of active gamblers and is the third region that generates the most income from gambling, only surpassed by China and the USA. In fact, between April 2019-March 2021, the betting industry generated total revenue of £ 14,224.0m.

However, although this figure is quite attractive, it actually represents a decline of 0.6% compared to the previous period. This drop is mainly the result of the profits generated by non-remote gambling. On the other hand, online gambling (remote) experienced a CGY growth of 15.5% in the same period, while online casinos (remote) also grew by 3.7%.

Overall, the remote gambling industry CGY grew by 34.3% (£ 1,450.8m) since 2015. It should also be noted that the majority of bets placed between April 2019-March 2020 were placed remotely. These figures reflect that, even though the gambling tradition in the United Kingdom is a centuries-old tradition, citizens have no problem adapting to new gambling forms. And not only that, but they have also given it preference because they are protected by the laws and have excellent security.

This is not a fortuitous event, as the UK Gambling Commission, which is the body in charge of regulating gambling and betting in this region, is in constant communication with online gambling operators. The communications serve them to be able to monitor the activities carried out by these gambling and betting organizations and be able to ensure that they comply with the guidelines that are required to have an operating license.

In addition to this, the UK Gambling Commission monitors the activities carried out by users in order to adapt current regulations to the needs and protection of gamblers. Although the commission has created new operating restrictions for betting, they always take into consideration that they do not cause significant changes or problems in this economic sector due to its long historical tradition.

The Fall of The UK Non-Remote Gambling

The gaming industry in the UK had been experiencing sustained growth over time. Still, in 2020 the situation changed as it was necessary to restrict access to non-remote gambling for health reasons. This caused physical gambling places to experience, for the most part, a decline in their gross gambling yield (CGY). For example, large non-remote casinos had 4% less revenue between April 2019-March 2020 than in previous years.

In this same period, non-remote betting experienced a decline of 26.4%, and non-remote Bingo declined by 5.7%. These figures ended up causing a quite remarkable decrease in generated revenues of 0.6%. The most recent figures released by the UK Gambling Commission show a bleak reality for non-remote gambling, but there are several factors that have directly influenced them.

On the one hand, a new regulation in betting began to be applied in April 2019, which consists of reducing the maximum stakes from £2 for all those machines that belong to category B2. And on the other hand, many sectors of the betting industry had to temporarily close their operations due to the global pandemic of COVID-19 and the restrictions that were applied in the region due to this since March 2020.

These restrictions not only affected large casinos and other non-remote gambling venues but also caused the suspension of various live sporting events, which could have had a direct impact on operators. However, the possibility of placing a wide variety of bets remotely, or participating in the various lotteries, allowed to reduce to a minimum the impact of restrictions within the sector. In fact, the figures generated by the remote gambling industry show that the sector is on a sustained rise, despite the severe, temporary blow it is currently experiencing.

The Future of Gambling in The UK

The UK Gambling Commission, in its most recent report, published data that could concern the most sceptical of the sector, but, although the general terms the figures are negative, the data points to growth within the industry, especially in the online gambling sector. The world of gambling is very flattering within the UK for important factors. On the one hand, they have one of the most respectable and transparent gaming commissions in the entire world, so gambling at any online casino or bookmaker within the UK is a very safe and secure activity.

In fact, for any casino, lottery, or bookmaker to work in this region, they must obtain one of the licenses granted by the UK Gambling Commission, and these are constantly evaluated. In the period from April 2019 to March 2020, the number of licenses decreased by 4.2%. Likewise, player complaints are also quickly addressed, especially when they express suspicions about possible illegal activities that may be taking place at any betting site. If the gamblers’ suspicions are proven to be accurate, the UK Gambling Commission will withdraw the licenses and immediately take legal action.

But the UK not only has regulations designed to protect gamblers they also have one of the best tax scenarios in the betting world. As already mentioned above, it is unnecessary to declare or pay taxes on the winnings obtained on a bet in this region. This means that the player will receive in his pockets the total of the profits he obtains because this is considered a hobby and not a job by the authorities. Now how does the UK profit from gambling if players don’t pay tax? The answer is simple: the casinos.

All gambling sites must pay a percentage of their winnings as tax, approximately 15% of their total income. However, this percentage is still very low when compared to other regions. For example, in the case of Germany or France, gambling sites can pay the government up to 50% of their profits, significantly reducing profit margins. In fact, the UK’s low taxation of the gaming industry has helped invest large sums in improving and innovating betting, which is why many UK casinos have established themselves as the world’s newest.

Summary: A Promising Outlook for UK Online Gambling

Although the betting market is constantly changing, as well as the trends and technologies associated with this industry, the UK will undoubtedly be able to stay ahead of the industry without any problems. After all, since the 19th century, the region’s society has adapted smoothly to the different types of gambling, but it has also become an activity widely accepted by the communities.

The UK population traditionally finds it attractive to participate in a wide variety of betting modalities. As times change, bettors will seamlessly adapt to innovations as they have done to date. The figures show this, with the growth of remote gambling to occupy 39.9% of the industry, and everything indicates that this figure will do nothing but continue to grow steadily in the near future.

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