With lockdowns happening globally this year, there are many people who are spending more time at home than usual. Many are trying out new hobbies, streaming content and discovering new forms of entertainment.
For a few years now, there has been a steady rise in the number of people participating in online gambling in the United Kingdom. According to 2020 gambling statistics from Finder, a significant percentage of people are gambling in a variety of ways. While the most popular form of gambling in the UK is the National Lottery draws, there are also many other virtual ways that people are spending their money. Virtual horse races, virtual gaming machines, and online slot machine style games, are also popular methods too.
Loot boxes: another form of gambling?
In September, the UK government was asking for the public’s opinion in an eight-week consultation on the impact of loot boxes in video games. Reported on by BBC News, loot boxes can be seen as a controversial feature of many video games, both on mobile and on console. Usually a player only finds out what is inside the loot box once they have purchased it. These prize boxes may include something of value in the game but also something that might not be useful at all. As players take a risk in return for a potential reward because they do not usually know what they are purchasing, these boxes have been compared to gambling.
This type of in-game purchase has divided opinion for a while now, with companies starting to put more regulations in place to protect players. For example, in 2019 Fornite made its loot boxes see-through so that players knew exactly what they were purchasing in advance. While some players may see these boxes as a small investment and as part of the game, others are spending over the top to get the items they want in the ‘digital lucky dip’. Therefore in July this year, the UK government called for loot boxes to be classified as ‘games of chance’ under the Gambling Act 2005.
The popularity of online gaming & gambling
Online gambling has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with the events of this year that saw physical betting establishments and casinos closing their doors during lockdown, the accessibility of online options became clear as players could still access gaming options. 18+ players in the United Kingdom are able to explore table games, play online slots, and even play bingo online. In 2019, mobile phones remained to be the most popular method of gambling online, and according to the 2019 Gambling Commission Report on gambling participation, behaviour, awareness, and attitudes – those who typically gambled on their phones were from younger age groups. Statistics showed that around 76% of 18-24 year olds gambled on their mobiles compared to 14% aged 65+.
With mobile technology, Wi-Fi, and fast internet connections, it’s clear to see how online gaming has become popular with players over the years. UKGC statistics also shows that in 2019 56% of online gamblers had more than one online account, suggesting that there’s a wide variety of games available for players to choose online.
Betting on Esports: From Dota 2 to Counter-Strike
While the esports category is not new, the activity has grown in popularity over recent years, particularly in 2020. As both a form or entertainment and betting activity, many players tune in to watch their favourite players play some of the top rated games such as PUBG, Dota 2, Counter-Strike, and League of Legends.
This year, while physical sports like football and horse racing were put on hold and betting shops closed, esports continued to grow quite unaffected by Covid-19. Video gamers could still stream videos and participate in big tournaments without leaving their homes.
According to the 2019 UKGC report, 6% of respondents took part in esports betting, with participation rates being the highest among 18-24 year olds. It’s clear to see how popular certain games have been in the industry, for example, Fortnite has around 78million monthly players. Video games streaming has been popular for a while now but surged hugely during pandemic lockdown. Earlier this year, Twitch had 1.4 million average viewers in February and around 2.5 million in April.