Explaining The Rapid Growth of Online Sports Gambling In The UK

Online gambling first became legal in the UK in 2003 following proposed changes by the Culture Secretary. The new bill was set out to keep pace with developments in modern technology — which was already spawning new ways to bet.

Online betting UK has seen a dramatic change from then to now. The amount of people engaging in online betting has increased enormously, for reasons I discuss in this article.


The Growing Popularity of Sports Betting

UK online gambling has seen a 19% gross gaming revenue (GGR) increase per annum since 2003. Back then just 4% of the total GGR was from online gambling. In 2019 that figure had grown to 45%. 

According to data gathered by the majority of operators working in the UK market, there has been a month by month increase in online sports betting revenue. In fact, Sports betting revenue rose by 53% from £189.7m in September of 2019 to £290.1m at the end of 2020. This figure represents a significant portion of the overall yield from online gambling in the UK.

The growing number of active gamblers, along with increasing volumes of bets placed, has contributed to the surge in online sports betting. But exactly what factors have lead to this rise in the online gambling sector? Why has the industry grown so substantially?


Changing Habits

Betting on sports has gradually moved away from venues and physical bookmakers to the online sphere. 

The majority of today’s sports lovers are already connected to the web via computers, tablets and smartphones throughout the day. So, naturally, placing bets is far easier now than it ever was before online betting sites came along. The smartphone alone has been a major factor in the explosion of online casino usage throughout the world — offering gaming entertainment and thrills directly from a handheld mobile device.

The result of quick & easy access to gambling sites is, of course, an increase in the volume of bets being placed. But also consider that online gambling has enabled modern players to explore other ways to bet — such as dabbling in casino gaming, slots, poker, and bingo. Players’ exposure to new gambling products has altered consumer habits, adding to the growth of the industry as a whole.



Increased engagement is another reason why online sports gambling has grown so prominently in recent years.

The latest apps and smartphones have helped to create a smooth, immersive experience for playing casino games, placing sports bets, or watching live events. For instance, the graphics and visualisations incorporated into online slot machines move with the times — whereas physical machinery becomes stagnant over years of operation.

Colourful animations, images, videos and other rich features — such as live odds and statistics during sports events — are incorporated into gambling sites thanks to online technology. As a result, Sports fans feel closer and more immersed in the events they hold a stake in, and regularly come back for more.

Live betting along with live streaming, in particular, is undoubtedly a major contributor to the success of online sports betting. Today’s sports bettors are able to watch games at home from the wide array of sports channel packages available, with the latest odds at their fingertips.


More Markets

Another big reason for the success of online gambling is the sheer convenience and accessibility of sports betting options.

By simply logging on to an online provider a player can view all of the markets available for an event without ever leaving the home. The depth of coverage is enormous, and far greater than traditional physical-based bookmakers have ever offered.

Bettors are able place bets at any time of the day, on a multitude of niche markets from popular events taking place all over the world, using multiple bookmakers if need be. This was barely conceivable in the mid 90’s, and started to become a reality by 2003.


Improved Security

Security could’ve become a major stumbling block for online gambling. But one of the ways that sports betting operators have continued to evolve is to harness the speed and convenience of online technology while maintaining maximum protection to customers’ deposits.

Strong security measures — including high level encryption from betting sites and associated e-wallets — makes sports gambling an increasingly attractive proposition for those seeking assurance that their funds are well looked after. 

Gambling regulations in the UK have also tightened up in recent years, which provides another layer of assurance. UK players can now only use gambling sites that hold a local licence from the UK Gambling Commission. Sites with a UK licence must adhere to strict rules — especially when it comes to handling and protecting funds. Thus the major online sports betting operators must not act unprofessionally, as doing so would put their UK licence, and therefore customer base, in serious jeopardy.

Insolvency issues, as with any business, do still arise in online gambling. So players are strongly advised to stick to the major brands, and to research the level of protection available to customers given the worst case scenario of the gambling site winding up.


More Promotions

Online sports betting has brought players a wide range of promotions and offers to make playing more attractive.

Online bonuses are larger and more valuable than those offered by traditional physical-based bookmakers. This is partly due to the fact that the online gambling market has so much competition; so gambling sites need to be competitive in order to gain attention from players.

Today, bonuses and promotions are a weekly — or even daily — offering at the major sports betting sites. Many of the promos are to the customer’s benefit (i.e. it’s more valuable to the player than the bookmaker). This obviously helps to entice customers back onto the site, and usually has the result of generating more betting activity in the long run.



Accessibility, ease, variety of options, security and a heightened sense of immersion are all contributors to the success of UK online sports gambling. As players become more accustomed to placing wagers on smartphones and computers, the online market share of sports gambling looks set to increase further. 

The technologically adept and online savvy bettors of the modern world demand information and entertainment in a remarkably different context to previous eras. At least for most of us, the days of huddling into a bookies to watch the race or game are a thing of the past.

With online technology finding a way into almost every area of our everyday lives online gambling is undoubtedly here to stay and, if regulations permit, will grow as new products and improved apps continue to enhance the seemingly advanced experience we already have today.

Toby @ Punter2Pro
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