2020 in Gambling – A Recap

Viktor Vangelov | Published 31 Dec 2020, 12:45 p.m.

The end of the year is usually the best period to do a recap and see how the industry has performed in the previous 12 months, what were the new trends, who are the biggest winners and losers and what can we expect in the new year.

We did that in 2019 and back then we were wondering what the first steps of the then new Tory government would be in regard to gambling legislation. It was expected that the country might get a new Gambling Act in the following year or years, seen as both the ruling party and the opposition see the Gambling Act 2005 as an outdated law in a digital era. Furthermore, many restrictions were introduced in 2019 like the increase of the remote gambling duty from 15% to 21%.

In normal terms, we would’ve done a similar analysis. But as you surely know by now, 2021 has been anything but a normal year. A lot has happened and everything was heavily influenced by the global pandemic and the measures aimed at curbing it. Gambling wasn’t immune to this, so pretty much every analysis would be from a perspective of the pandemic and its effect on the economy overall and especially on particular business. So this is what we can conclude so far, before more detailed analyses and statistics are published.

The Retail Industry Suffered

If there’s one thing that’s more certain than anything it is that the land-based gambling industry has suffered greatly, seen as most casinos, betting shops and other venues were closed for most of the year. Betting suffered as well, since pretty much all sports events were cancelled in April, May and most of June.

Operators were forced to close down some of their retail locations and many staff members were put on the furlough scheme. On the other hand, the online industry wasn’t hit as dramatically. Yes, generally speaking, people had less money this year, so that meant that they would spend less on betting and gambling, but on the other hand, some punters tended to place more wagers when their area was placed under heavier restrictions, especially when in lockdown.

So, in a way, the shift towards online betting and gambling that we witnessed in the past several years only continued in 2020 and that was only reinforced by the whole situation. We can expect a stronger shift in 2021, regardless of the situation with the virus.

Will We Get a New Gambling Act in 2021?

Still, quite a lot has happened this year. Firstly, the consultations on the new Gambling Act has already began. Quite a few operators were fined for their wrongdoings this year and we will probably see a new limit be imposed on online slots, much like the limit on fixed odds betting terminals that was introduced in 2019.

In terms of businesses, we have the rebranding of GVC Holdings as Entain plc. The company has also pledged to exit all grey markets by 2023. The former GVC CEO, Kenny Alexander decided to leave the business and that came as a sudden decision for many in the industry.

But it wasn’t just the UK industry, pretty much every market was struggling, especially countries that have a thriving land-based market.

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