Online slot machines worth more to gambling firms than sport betting
Gambling firms made over £14 billion from punters last year, as the NHS sees a record number of referrals for problem gambling.
The industry’s gross gambling yield (GGY) - money kept by companies after paying customers their winnings - rose by 11% last year, new figures from the Gambling Commission have revealed.
It’s the first rise in GGY for three years, going from £12.69 billion between April 2020 and March 2021, to £14.08 billion between April 2021 and March 2022.
However, despite the rise, the GGY is still lower than pre-pandemic levels and is down from a peak of £14.41 billion in the 12 months to March 2018.
For the third year in a row, the lion’s share of the GGY came from online (or remote) gambling - £6.44 billion versus £3.49 billion.
That’s not including the £3.48 billion from the National Lottery though, whose figures aren’t broken down into remote and non-remote bets.
But while gambling has been synonymous with sport over the years, when it comes to online gambling, it's the slot machines where the big money is being made.
Online betting on things like sport, politics and TV had a GGY of £2.36 billion in 2021/22.
That’s compared to £3.90 billion for casino betting.
The vast majority of that though, £3.00 billion, came from slots.
By comparison, remote football betting had a GGY of £1.09 billion, just a third as much.
The rise of slots has been rather remarkable.
Back in 2015/16, the earliest full year for which data is available, online slot machines had a GGY of £1.56 billion.
That’s a rise of 92% in just six years.
In 2019/20, just before the start of the pandemic, they had a GGY of £2.35 billion, rising by over a quarter since then.
While the amount of money gambling firms make from customers is on the rise, so too are the number of people seeking help.
A total of 599 people were referred to the NHS’s specialist gambling clinics between April and September this year.
That’s compared to 421 people in the same period last year.
That means we’re on course for a record number of referrals by the end of this financial year.
Between April 2020 and March 2021, there were 775 such referrals.
That rose to 1,013 in the 12 months to March 2022.
The NHS has pledged to open 15 gambling clinics by 2023/24, with addiction clinics now open in London, Leeds, Sunderland, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Telford. A further national addiction clinic, which treats both gambling and gaming addiction for children and young people, is also open in London
Earlier this year the head of mental health services in England, Claire Murdoch, announced the NHS would fully fund its own gambling services, removing funding from GambleAware, a charity funded directly by gambling companies.
The decision followed feedback from patients and clinicians opposing the conflict of interest from the gambling industry, which generates profits of over £14 billion a year in the UK, funding treatment for addiction inadequately and on a voluntary basis, while continuing harmful practices.
NHS Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch said: “Addiction is a cruel illness that can take over and ruin lives, from putting people into financial distress to straining family relations, and it is no exaggeration to say it can be deadly in the most extreme cases.
“Thousands suffer gambling problems across the country, and it is important those suffering from addiction know that the NHS is here to help and they should not hesitate to come forward for support if needed.
“But while the NHS is there for anybody suffering, the NHS cannot be left alone to pick up the ills caused by unhealthy business practices. Firms engaging in activities that fuel addiction should think hard about the human cost that can be behind their profits”.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “The impacts of harmful gambling are stark and widespread, affecting people’s savings, relationships and health.
“The latest figures demonstrate this is a growing issue and we are working to protect people from the damaging impacts of harmful gambling.
“This includes providing specialist NHS gambling addiction treatment clinics across the country, as part of our investment of an extra £2.3 billion a year by 2024 to expand mental health services to enable better access to vital support.”