The Rise of Online Gambling

Steady societal advances in internet accessibility has created room for industry to grow, innovate, and transform in ways that have never been seen before. As we are now able to consume information and media through mobile and tablet devices while ‘on the go’, opportunities to advertise, market, and sell arose in ways that were formerly not possible

The gambling industry was just one of the markets to capitalise on this strong online growth with online free slots gambling now making up just under £5 billion of gambling revenues in the UK with quite a high percentage of this being down to online slots.

The stigma unfolds

In the past gambling was always something that existed in the peripheries of people’s minds, sure a lot of people had a tipple on the football pools or the Grand National but for the most part the industry was reduced to seedy bookmakers and damp racetracks, or at the other end of the spectrum, Las Vegas and Monte Carlo casinos.

The emergence of online gambling created new opportunities to sell gambling to a whole new demographic of people. With social media at an arm’s length gambling was brought to the masses with many women getting involved with online bingo and slots.

As the market grew, gambling adverts were increasingly visible on our television screens, latching on to sports programmes or during the adverts of Coronation Street. The temptation became impossible to avoid.

The Gambling Rush

The Californian gold rush of 1848 transformed the United States to the country we know today, somewhat free and disproportionately powerful. The rush gave average paupers the opportunity to make their fortunes in gold as many fled west to get a piece of the action. Similarly, online gambling created a similar effect.

In land based market that was dominated by big names like William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, and Coral the game had changed and the opportunity was there for people to enter the industry through the back door. Of course, the funding behind these big names is enough to keep them at the top but this online accessibility created a new barometer of how the industry was quantified.

The number of book makers you possessed was consumed by the amount of web traffic you enjoyed and it allowed more and more competitors to infiltrate the industry. The success of your online casino or sportsbook is now based on how far you are up the google rankings rather than how many stands you have at Aintree.

Rules and Regulation

It’s said that there’s over 14.5 million active user accounts across the gambling sector. As the interest in online gaming and betting reached boiling point it was only natural that the Government stepped in.

Following the Gambling Act of 2005 the UK Gambling Commission was created to bring in new laws and guidelines on how the industry should be run. They set out to act as gatekeepers of the industry, to maintain safety and well-being while stamping out any legality that existed. The rapid incline of the industry prevented the Commission from gaining a solid foothold in the grey areas that spawned within the market. Criticisms were fired their way around topics like Fixed Odds Betting terminals, Joey Barton betting scandals, and marketing to the vulnerable.

While the UK and Europe chooses to take a more holistic approach to the industry and jump at the opportunity to control one more thing, the US have taken a different method.

For many America is an alien land of extreme diversity, never has there been a place where so many polar opposites exists but so much power is harnessed. This power is often manifested in for overseeing the removal of the middle-ground rather than walking a path of discourse and public approval. What could you expect from the country that brought us prohibition?

Land based gambling law in the US is often delivered on a state-by-state basis with most states opting to ban the activity outright. Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York are just a few of the casinos who advocate gambling but that’s as far as it goes. In true bald eagle fashion, the US have completely outlawed online gambling.

A statement by the FBI read: “You can go to Vegas. You can go to Atlantic City. You can go to a race track. You can go to those places and gamble legally. But don’t do it online. It’s against the law.”

It’s as simple as that. Many of the US gambling heavyweights like MGM, Wynn, and Sands have chosen to place all their energy into building their real estate casino empire leaving large swaths of the online casino market consumable by UK and European competitors.

Moral Value of Regulation

The nature of gambling brings a lot of moral questions that must be considered as fair arguments are waged on both sides of the Atlantic. Looser regulation has allowed the UK to capitalise on the gambling market with little international competition, but at what cost? Gambling is a £10 billion pound industry in the UK and as a conservative government is hell bent on austerity they aren’t exactly going to close the doors on the industry’s economic benefits.

The questions around morality rest upon the well-being of the gamblers themselves. Is the UK Gambling commission doing enough to protect vulnerable players or less economically stable people? Only time will tell.

Alternatively, Government condemnation in countries like the ‘States, China, and India has created illegality and a black market that only acts as a harbinger of crime. The snowball effects of an underground gambling industry are similar to the symptoms of the ‘War on Drugs’; money laundering, incarceration, and violence.

The Future

Only time will tell how much growth is left in the online gambling industry. As the UK market is infiltrated by mass-media sports betting and demographic driven advertising it seems like online gaming is only going to become more ingrained into society. Much to the pleasure of the Government and online casinos, but the moral questions of gambling is a debate for another time. Check out our list of slot games.