For the past few years, tech and business news media have been overwhelmed with tales of social networks and community websites: how they are growing, how they are competing against each other, how they complement or will replace search engines. The greater alarmists remind us that they are destroying corporate productivity and filled with sexual predators.
Quietly, in the background, another type of website has been rapidly on the rise, growing 40% each year. Though no individual site or brand currently dominates the market, collectively online gambling sites are being visited more frequently than Facebook. According to Nielson Media Research, last year, 3.2 million people visited online gambling sites in the UK. Meanwhile, only 2.2 million visited Facebook and other social network sites.
Though the movies may like to paint gamblers as either rich playboys or down-on-their luck desperados, the typical internet gambler is very much in the middle. These players usually earn about $50,000 (£30,000). Though at 54%, marginally more men gamble online, nearly half the players are women.
While gambling is on the rise among both men and women, the most online growth is seen among high-earning households who have the most discretionary and disposable income, middle aged men who may be looking for a new start in life, and the well-educated (whose presence on this list can’t be so easily explained by pop psychology).
This demographic surprises Neilson’s Neil Beston who observed that since the start of internet gambling in 1995, online gamblers had either had lower incomes or been nearing the end of their lifespans.
One significant change may be in the services being offered. Online casinos in the UK, in particular, are considered a key area in the growth of internet gambling. While the initial internet casinos only offered 18 different games, today’s internet casinos often boast hundreds, including progressive jackpots with millions of British pounds at stake.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the UK has proved a hotbed for the growth of internet gambling sites. Unlike many other nations, nothing makes online betting illegal. Moreover, the UK Gambling Commission makes it comparatively easy for companies wishing to operate online betting sites to obtain a license.
On the other hand, it isn’t all sunny skies ahead for UK online gambling operators. New and modified tax laws, such as the Remote Gaming Tax, are making it difficult for some internet bookies to remain competitive while operating in the UK. For example, Betfair Online Sportsbook threatens to leave the UK, following in the footsteps of William Hill. Of course, this is more a problem for the operators than the consumers who are still free the enjoy sites that have relocated to Gibraltar and elsewhere.