Because many major chain retailers and independent stores have closed their doors in recent years, walking down almost any high street in the United Kingdom today will almost certainly involve passing by empty buildings and shop fronts that are beginning to show their age. For some time now, the high street in the United Kingdom has been struggling. High rents, crippling business rates, and rising taxes have made operating a physical retail outlet financially unviable for many people. Furthermore, an increasing number of people are choosing to do their shopping online. We have the highest percentage of online shoppers per capita in Europe, with approximately 38% of UK consumers making an online purchase at least once per week. Because an increasing number of people prefer to shop online rather than on the high street, retail establishments in town centres are struggling to make a profit.
The digitalization of some or all of a company’s operations is not limited to the retail industry. The gaming and gambling industry has seen a significant increase in overall revenue since the introduction of online services, contributing to the sector’s overall boom. Another industry in which UK consumers are setting the standard is online gambling. Remote gambling generated approximately £5.3 billion in revenue during the 2018-2019 fiscal year, accounting for more than a third of the industry’s total revenue.
As part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, people in the United Kingdom were advised to spend as much time as possible inside their homes, and retailers and gambling establishments were ordered to close their doors for several months. As a result, many people are engaging in online activities more frequently than ever before. As people were confined to their homes for extended periods of time, there was an increase in the number of people using online casinos. People’s interest in searching for online casinos reached an all-time high during the lockdown. People were looking for slot sites, card games, virtual sports to bet on, and other ways to kill time. The question that land-based casinos and bookmakers must now address is whether customers will return to these establishments once restrictions are lifted, or whether they will continue to prefer the convenience of playing online instead.
In the early days of home internet access and online gambling, there was evidence that people would abandon physical venues in favour of staying at home and accessing their favourite games online. This evidence suggested that people would stop visiting physical locations. Customers prefer the convenience and ease of accessing games online, so many long-established bingo halls in London were forced to close in the early 2000s and beyond due to a lack of customer traffic. On the other hand, a number of recent studies have shown that revenue from online casinos does not cannibalise revenue from traditional casinos.
People who enjoy gambling typically fall into one of two categories: those who want to be able to access the games whenever they want, from wherever they happen to be, and at their own convenience, and those who prefer to make an event out of it by visiting a casino, race track, or other venue. Despite the fact that there is some overlap between the two types of players, those who gamble at land-based casinos and those who gamble online constitute two distinct consumer groups. Furthermore, people can try out the games at online casinos before deciding whether or not they want to go to land-based establishments to play them. People who have played the games online and discovered that they enjoy them are more likely to plan a trip to an actual casino to spend the evening there.
The British Gambling Council expressed their displeasure with the lockdown measures that barred gambling establishments from receiving government assistance in multiple areas, resulting in the closure of casinos and bookmakers across the UK for several months in 2020. Businesses in the hospitality, retail, and leisure industries were eligible for a 12-month tax break on business rates; however, gambling clubs and casinos were not included in this relief. Retail betting shops were also exempted because the government considered them to be more of a financial service than a leisure activity. The BGC, on the other hand, praised the steps taken to protect employee wages, which would have been nearly impossible for businesses to cover. Even if they had been able to keep their doors open during the lockdown, sportsbooks and bookmakers would have taken a significant financial hit because live sporting events were cancelled during that time period.
The retail gambling sector in the United Kingdom was still reeling from the 2019 regulations at the start of the lockdown. The new laws, enacted to combat the problem gambling epidemic that has swept the United Kingdom, reduced the maximum bet that customers are allowed to place on fixed odds betting machines from £100 to £2. In the six months following the new legislation’s implementation, nearly a thousand betting shops across the UK closed their doors. This represents a closure rate of about four per day, with nearly a thousand more scheduled to close by 2021.
According to the evidence, land-based casinos will continue to attract customers even as the number of people gambling online grows. This is due to the fact that there will always be a segment of the population who prefers the excitement of a live venue. Although the majority of major UK bookmakers provide both online and retail services, more venue closures may occur in the coming months if people continue to bet exclusively online. This is due to the fact that people prefer the convenience of placing bets online. Because of the closure of high street bookmakers, there will be less foot traffic in town centres, which could lead to the closure of additional retail outlets and even more disruption on the high street. People are more likely to bet from the comfort of their own homes or on mobile devices.