The UK gambling industry has gone through a rapid transition over the past twenty years, not least because of the technical innovation of digitalization. In what started as an initial upgrade from land based casinos to phone betting, quickly moved onwards and upwards to online gambling. In 2018 and beyond, it appears that mobile and smart phone wagering is set to play a leading role in the industry. Ultimately, this has increased convenience levels significantly, allowing players to choose how and when they gamble without needing to leave their home. On the contrary, consumer choice also extends to mobile slot sites, all at the touch of a button.
We are Slotbettors are keen to explore how this transition occurred, along with an exploration of what the current state of play looks like, as well as what the future of online gambling holds.
The history of gambling in the UK
Mainstream gambling across the UK officially commenced in the 1900's, with the formation of betting shops. As one can imagine, this primarily focused on horse and greyhound wagering, with the addition of sports betting coming in to force in the 1960’s. The process was simple – simply walk in to your local betting office, write your bet out and then allow the shop assistant to process it manually on a carbon-copied sheet of paper.
Interestingly, until the year 2001, there was a rather unusual system employed within betting shops regarding taxation. Known as the Betting Levy, customers would have the choice to either pay tax on their stake or alternatively, pay the tax on their winnings.
For example, if you put a £100 bet on a horse at 3/1 – in today’s market you would you have the potential to either win a total of £400 or on the contrary, lose your entire stake. However, prior to 2001, the customer would have had to pay 9% tax on their stake (£9 – meaning the total stake reduced to £91) or 9% on their winnings (£36 from a total of £400).
Thankfully, under Gordon Brown’s oversight as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, this levy was abolished with the aim of reversing declining betting revenues.
Moving back a few years, it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the first online casinos started to prop up. Many of these lacked any form of stringent customer protections, nor were any of them officially regulated - at least not in the UK market.
The hallmark legislation that solidified the UK scene was the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005, which still stands as the primary legal viewpoint for all forms of gambling. The concept of this legislative enactment was to bring gambling in to the twenty-first century. Although the government wanted to ensure that the industry remained a safe place to gamble, legislators wanted to remove the regulatory red-tape that was hindering innovation.
From a regulatory perspective, the Gambling Act 2005 was responsible for the formation of the Gambling Commission, who still to this date act as the industry’s watchdog.
The act also gave the green light to online gambling websites, as well as paving the way for operators to market their services through advertising. Initially, online casinos were dominated by the big-boys, notably William Hill and Ladbrokes. However, as the online sector became more and more popular, the amount of operators opening their doors increased significantly.
In the early days, online casinos were slightly non-descript, insofar that the games on offer were basic, customer due diligence didn’t really exist and there were no safeguards in place to ensure that the gaming outcomes were true and fair. As a result, operators came and go – often taking player funds with them. However, as we will explain further in this article – player protections in the UK gambling scene are now industry leading.
The next gambling phenomenon that took the UK gambling sector by storm was the installation of mobile gaming. This of course coincided with the growth of smart technology in the late-2000’s. Not only this, but the increase in availability of mobile data and WIFI created an opportunity for gambling operators that had never been seen before. For the first time ever, players could gamble on a variety of casino and sports betting products whilst on the go.
As long as the phone had an internet connection, no matter where the player was located they could log in to their account and place bets. This has subsequently created an entire new industry, with mobile slots, table games and sportsbooks now increasing their market share exponentially.
Ultimately, the UK gambling industry has come a long way over the past few decades, with players now having the choice between traditional high street betting shops and casinos, or on the contrary, the digital world of online and mobile casinos.
The current state of play
To further explore the current state of play in 2018, we decided to break down some of the most popular gambling methods currently being employed by UK punters.
Pub based slots – fruit machines
The land-based slot machine industry is a highly versatile arena, with regulations depending on the type of machine and the location that they are based. Back in the day, the most popular place to play slots was in pubs. Practically every pub would have at least one fruit machine, often more.
Stake sizes were originally limited to just 10p, with a maximum jackpot of £10. Over the course of a decade, this increased incrementally, with the current maximum jackpot set at £100 + repeat chance. Fruit machines have since become more advanced and now allow the player to choose their stake size. Although the total jackpot remains the same, the player is afforded a greater chance of winning as the stake increases.
Every fruit machine has a basic three reel slot layout and the bonus feature is activated when either three bonus symbols appear on the reels, or an accumulated amount of numbers are achieved. Most machines also still utilize random nudges, as well offering the player the opportunity to hold reels.
However according to a recent study by CLMS - a firm that audits pub fruit machine profits, takings have declined by an unprecedented £600 million since 2007, amounting to a 25% reduction in weekly revenues. This viewpoint is also supported by Bacta - an organization representing low staked UK gaming, who state that 30 years ago more than 50,000 fruit machines were manufacture annually. Today - that number is just 10,000.
According to both commentators, this downfall is attributed to the introduction of fixed-odds betting terminals, otherwise referred to as FOBT’s.
Fixed-odds betting terminals
The installation of the aforementioned Gambling Act 2005 also paved the way for a new gaming product – FOBT’s. In a nut shell, FOBT’s are touch-screen machines that host a range of traditional casino games such as blackjack, roulette and of course slots. The Gambling Act permits a maximum of four machines per betting shop, with the vast majority of bookmakers maximizing this allocation.
FOBT’s allow players to stake a maximum of £100 per spin on table games, with a maximum pay-out of £500. Outside of land based casinos, this offers the largest jackpot limit for UK customers. The machines have been a huge success for high street betting shops, with each machine estimated to make a guaranteed £1,000 a week for the bookies. In 2017 alone, more than £55 billion was inserted in to FOBT’s, further illustrating just how popular they are with UK punters.
However, in response to growing pressures from various campaign groups, the UK government recently announced that they would be reducing maximum stakes from £100 per spin, all the way down to just £2. The bookmakers have responded by stating that the reduction will result in tens of thousands of job losses. This comes at no surprise, especially when one considers that more than 50% of betting shop profits arise from FOBT’s.
This makes things very interesting. There is no doubt that the billions of pounds previously inserted in to FOBT’s has to go elsewhere, but the key question is – which gambling sector will benefit?
Most industry experts hold the view that the key driving force behind the success of FOBT’s was the ability to gamble in a fast and interactive manner. In fact, it was possible to gamble up to £300 every 60 seconds when playing roulette. As a result, it is strongly believed that this business will eventually transition over to the digital markets of either online or mobile gambling. In reality, these methods offer the player even greater convenience and significantly more choice when it comes to games.
Online gambling is now the most lucrative form of betting in the UK market, as it allows people to gamble not only in their own home – but also on the go through their mobile phone. In fact, the UK is now home to more than a thousand online casinos, with the vast majority hosting a range of slots. This has resulted in the sector becoming ultra-competitive, with each slot provider attempting to maximum their market share.
In order to entice new players to their platform, online casinos offer a range of welcome bonuses. This normally includes a matched deposit or even free spins. Although the casinos quite often make a loss on such promotional activities, it is hoped that players remain on the platform long-term.
For those who are inexperienced with online slots, the process is very straight forward. Initially you will be required to open an account – which often takes no more than two minutes. On top of choosing a username and password, you will also need to provide the casino with some personal details – such as your full name, address and date of birth.
Once your account is set up, you can then make a deposit. Options come in a range of different forms, with the most popular method being a debit or credit card deposit. Other methods include a bank transfer, e-wallets like PayPal or Skrill - and you can even make a cash deposit if the casino has a high street shop.
Account deposits are in most cases instant, which allows you to start gambling straight away. When you decide that you want to withdraw your winnings, you will first need to verify your identity. This is to ensure that the casino remains complaint with domestic anti-money laundering laws such as the Money Laundering Regulation 2017. Under the regulations, players must provide the casino with a form of ID (such as a passport or driving license) and a proof of address (such as a utility bill or bank statement).
Once this has been approved by the casino (which doesn’t take long), then your withdrawal request is swiftly processed. At this point, as your identity has now been verified, the withdrawal process is seamless.
It is also important to remember that for these casinos to be operating within the law, they must hold a full gaming license from the Gambling Commission. This also rings true for non-UK based casinos who market their services to UK players. Without a Gambling Commission license, they simply cannot accept UK citizens.
To ensure that operators remain compliant with the Commission, they must adhere to the highly comprehensive Licence conditions and codes of practice (LLCP), which amongst other things, provides the player with a stringent set of safeguards. Failure to adhere to these conditions would result in the Commission revoking the operator’s license, meaning they would have no jurisdiction to offer their gambling services in the UK.
When using an online casino, there is often a misconception that slots might be rigged. As proven, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as each and every gaming outcome is guaranteed for its fairness via an RNG (Random Number Generator) protocol. The RNG technology is support by the art of cryptography, which ensures that each outcome is random.
Its cryptographic characteristics not only guarantee that this data cannot be manipulated by the casino, but it also ensures that all of the data is available to view for audit. Under the Gambling Commissions LLCP regulations, this data must be available at all times for the Commission to audit.
Unlike the restraints of fruit machines and FOBT’s, the maximum slot stakes available through online casinos are highly substantial. To give you an example of the figures involved, the largest ever win at a UK slot casino is more than £17 million! Jackpot slots are available at 100’s of online casinos and quite often amount to a prize pot in the millions of pounds. This is because certain casinos link their servers together to create a collective jackpot that can be won on any of the platforms involved. This is much in the same way that poker sites link their tournaments together or bingo halls offer huge pay-outs by linking up with other halls in the country.
Even if you don’t fancy playing a jackpot slot game, it is still possible to wager large amounts. This means that a standard slot game can offer a payout in the tens of thousands of pounds. Imagine trying to do this in a pub or betting shop. You would have to waste ample time on withdrawing the notes from the ATM machine and then subsequently inserting it in to the machine.
Not online this, but banks install a daily limit on ATM withdrawals in the region of £250-£300, meaning that you are restricted by the amount you can bet. Online casinos generally have deposit limits in the region of £100,000 per day, meaning that even high stake players are catered for.
It was only a matter of time before online casinos made the transition to smart phone technology. The process is much the same as playing through a web browser, at least with regards to convenience and player protection.
Most operators create their slot games in such a manner that when accessed through a mobile phone browser, the player gets the exact same experience. In the early days of mobile gambling, slot games were not designed to be accessed in this way, meaning that players could only really gamble on fixed-odds sporting events.
These days, most prominent online casinos also develop their own mobile casino applications that can be download on both ioS and Android devices. This essentially makes the player experience even greater, as attempting to access desktop sites on a smart phone can at times be mundane.
Interestingly, many operators have recognised the importance of mobile gaming by providing additional bonuses for those who play on their phone. This comes as no surprise, as casinos know that practically every adult in the UK carries a mobile phone on them at all times. This means that if the player gets an appetite to gamble, all they need to do is make sure they have an internet connection.
The future of mobile gambling
If you have read our analysis up to this point, you will now have a good understanding of how quickly the UK gambling industry has evolved – from high street betting shops to mobile gambling all within the space of two decades. However, we believe that this evolution is only set to continue.
One such area that appears to be finding ground is the growth of cryptocurrency gambling. Various established operators are now starting to accept Bitcoin as a means to deposit and withdraw funds. In doing so, it allows the player to receive their winnings in a matter of minutes, rather than days. Cryptocurrency deposits are also beneficial to the casino, as not only do they avoid expensive debit and credit card processing fees, but they also protect themselves from the threats of chargebacks.
In line with main stream adoption of cryptocurrencies, we also believe that smart contract casinos could soon become a thing. A smart contract is based on blockchain technology and allows a transaction to be processed without a third party. Essentially, gaming developers could make the traditional online platform redundant, by connecting the player and software provider directly. This would mean that when playing slots on a mobile phone, there would be no need for the casino to get involved, as each slot machine win could be instantly paid out to the player.
We also believe that as more and more operators join the market, the average welcome package on offer to new players is going to get even more significant than it already is. Mobile slot sites are already offering matched deposit bonuses of 300%, with the maximum amount available now in the thousands of pounds. How far can it go? We’ll have to wait and see!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it really possible to play the same amount of games on my mobile as I can on my computer?
Absolutely! Smart phone technology is no longer in its infancy, with users now accustomed to the exact same online experiences as they would expect to find at a web-based casino. Operators always ensure that their desktop site is able to fully transition on to a mobile web browser. Furthermore, a wide range of online casinos now create custom-based apps that can be downloaded on to both iOS and Android devices, improving the gaming experience even more.
How do I fund my gambling account through a mobile phone?
Mobile slot sites offer a significant range of payment methods to suit everyone’s needs. The most common method that players like to use is a debit or credit card. The best thing is that once you register your card, your details are automatically saved. This means that when you use your mobile phone to deposit, all you need to enter is the amount, along with your three digit CVV number.
You can also fund your account using an e-wallet like PayPal or Skrill, as well as through mobile banking. Ultimately, which ever method you opt for, your account is credited instantly, meaning that the entire deposit process takes no more than a few seconds.
Can I still get a sign up bonus if I register through my mobile?
Of course! When registering a new account with mobile slot sites, you are afforded all of the same promotional privileges that you would get with a desktop site. This includes a matched deposit bonus, as well as free spins.
In fact, online casinos often give you more favorable bonuses when you use a mobile phone, as they know that you will always have it with you. As a result, they hope that when you next get the urge to play, you can simply take out your phone and gamble straight away – without needing to wait until you get home!
What are the pros and cons of mobile slot sites?
Pros: • Access and play slot games any time and at any place • You can choose from over a thousand casinos, each offering hundreds of different slots • Exclusive bonuses given to players who gamble on their phone • Games require very little bandwidth, meaning both mobile data and WIFI is suitable Cons: • Very old smart phones might not be suitable (pre-2010) • Not all casinos have an app for non-ioS or Android phones, such as Windows.
All of them! Without a shadow of a doubt, practically every casino game you can think of will be available to play on a mobile gambling site. This of course includes traditional table games such as roulette, blackjack and baccarat, as well as thousands of different slots.
On top of this, you can also access a full sportsbook platform, which includes both pre-match odds and in-play betting. Even poker sites are now fully compatible with mobile phones!
What is the best game to play on a mobile?
Although it all depends on player preference, we feel that the greatest gaming experience is afforded to slots. This is not only because of the way the games are designed, but because they offer the chance to win significant jackpots. Essentially, by staking as little as 25p, you have the chance to win millions of pounds! Don’t believe us? Take a look on Google and see some of the huge slot jackpots that have been won by UK players. The highest jackpot to date was just over £17 million! A further reason that we prefer slots to other casino games is that the pay-out ratio is consistently high. In most cases, slots offer a ratio of at least 96% - sometimes more.
Isn’t it better just to use a land based casino to play slots?
Absolutely not! Although the casino experience can be a rather enjoyable evening, do you really want to go through the rigmarole of traveling to your nearest casino every time you want to have a quick flutter? By joining one of the many mobile slot sites we recommend, you can access all of the same slots as you would in a casino, without having to move a muscle! In fact, whilst land based casinos might have a slot machine range that is limited to just 20 machines, mobile casinos offer hundreds of different games.
How do I know which mobile casino to join?
That is where Slotbettors come in! We know how difficult it can be to ascertain whether an online casino is credible, especially when you consider just how many are now in the market. We are an independent review platform that offers free and impartial recommendations of the very best. By reading our reviews, you have a go-to platform at your disposal. Our reviews cover absolutely everything, from the casino’s range of games, payment methods, withdrawal times and customer service – plus more. We also let you know what bonuses are available, not only for new players – but for existing ones too.
Can I still use my mobile casino account when I am abroad?
This depends. For an online casino to offer their services to UK citizens, they must hold a gaming license from the UK Gambling Commission. As the conditions within the license do not extend to non-UK based players, casinos often block access if you are trying to log in from a non-UK IP address. If this is the case, it is always worth contacting your casino to see if they can un-block the IP address that you are trying to log in from. This usually isn’t a problem if you have already verified your account. Just explain to them that you are temporarily abroad.