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Expenditure on games of chance increased by 15.4% in 2011, continuing the year-on-year growth observed since 2009, when expenditure fell by 3.6%. This comes despite a return to recession in the first quarter of 2012, which seems to support the general consensus that the betting and gaming industry is recession-proof. Growth has also been driven significantly by the rising popularity of online gaming, which has been boosted by the increasing uptake of smartphones and tablets. As a result, a large number of betting and gaming operators have been keen to develop downloadable gambling and gaming applications (‘apps’). Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have also driven expenditure on betting and gaming, and have proved particularly popular among consumers, especially younger punters, who are much more adept at using touchscreen technology.
However, the industry has recently come under fire from MPs and councillors across the UK, who have raised concerns about the so-called ‘clustering’ of betting shops on high streets, as well as the highly addictive nature of FOBTs, which allow punters to place bets of £100 per go. Despite these concerns, a Commons Committee has recently suggested upping the limit of FOBTs per betting shop from four to 20, in order to combat ‘clustering’. While this may not be the outcome such MPs and councillors were originally hoping for, if the regulations regarding FOBTs were to change, it is likely to benefit retail bookmakers.
Legislation governing online gambling operators based overseas is also likely to be changed over the coming years, with a number of MPs backing the introduction of a point-of-consumption (PoC) tax to be levied against such businesses. This could force operators that have previously moved such operations overseas to locations, such as Gibraltar or the Channel Islands, to return to the UK. A decision regarding this matter is expected to be announced in 2013.
Despite the ongoing financial struggles currently affecting the UK, as well as the ongoing recession — which deepened in the second quarter of 2012 — it is likely that the betting and gaming industry continued to grow, driven by the highly successful 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games and the continuing popularity of online gaming, with Key Note predicting a 9% growth for this year alone.
Over the coming years, the online gaming sector is expected to expand even further, boosted by new product development (NPD) and moves into new platforms, such as social media networking sites, with Facebook already offering social bingo apps to users. These developments, along with the continued popularity of FOBTs and up-and-coming sporting events, such as the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the football World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil, should help to drive growth between 2012 and 2016, with Key Note predicting expenditure on games of chance to rise by 24.9% over the 5-year forecast period.
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