The gambling trends in the UK have seen lots of changes in the past two and a half years.

The impact of lockdown measures, the cost-of-living crisis, labor market shortages, and rising inflation are all having an effect on both high street and online gambling. The gambling industry has always been resilient to economic downturns and, although the value and size of the UK gambling market are close to pre-pandemic levels, the online gambling market was also hit by the credit card ban and other government restrictions.

In this article, we will give you a quick overview of how online gambling in the UK is fairing these days. We will also look into how the credit card ban may affect you and how you can continue playing without a credit card. We will reveal who the biggest operators are at the moment, what games are most popular, and how the industry popularizes itself on social media platforms.

New UK gambling laws

In 2020, the UK government started a review of the industry that would be “fit for the digital age”.  The most important (and shocking) restriction kicked in in March when the UK credit card issuers were forced to stop payments to all gambling establishments. Other tweaks of the original 2005 Gambling Act are about to take effect in the coming weeks.

The new restrictions will not affect poker that much but will focus on casino gaming and sports betting. Online casino operators will have to limit the size of bets players can place on games and sports betting events. The new proposed maximum bets of between £2 and £5 are in line with those of physical betting terminals and are much lower than what online slot and other casino games are able to offer.

The spending of high-risk customers will also have to be monitored more tightly by operators of online casinos for real money. Over the past five years, several casinos have been fined by the UK Gambling Commission for not carrying out adequate proof of income checks.

Another important control measure the new gambling laws are imposing is that casinos would not be able to offer VIP packages and free bets to customers who have already lost a lot of money. This is clearly a huge setback since online casinos generate the lion’s share of their income through high rollers.

As of 31 March 2020, online gambling operators who hold a UK online gambling license must participate in the GAMSTOP scheme which is a self-exclusion scheme. Once a player enters the scheme, he or she will not be able to play at any UK online casino.

Overview of the UK Online Gambling Scene in 2022

Available payment options after the credit card ban

A ban on gambling using credit cards for both online and offline gambling products came into effect on 14 April 2020. Previously, according to the UK Gambling Commission, out of the 10.5 million online gamblers 800 000 used credit cards to gamble, many of them being problem gamblers. With the new ban, the government created additional protection for vulnerable people, but this inconvenienced many casual gamblers too.

According to research, after the ban has been implemented, 76% of gamblers who used to use credit cards on gambling sites now did not use borrowed funds. 24% still used borrowed funds in some other ways. There are ways to go around the system, e.g., topping up an e-wallet with a credit card, topping up Revolut or other digital bank cards with a credit card, or simply playing at offshore online casinos that disguise their merchant code. However, all of these options have their downsides in terms of additional processing fees or because they are unregulated in the UK.

Let us look at what payment options are legal and readily available for UK players.

Debit cards

Visa, Visa Electron, Maestro, and Mastercard debit cards are accepted by almost all UK casinos, and you should be able to deposit and withdraw money with these cards easily. While deposits are instant and typically free, withdrawals can take 3 to 5 days and the casino may charge a fee for them.

Pay by phone bill

This deposit method has been increasing in popularity, especially after the credit card ban was imposed. The downside of this method is that there are fees involved and that the amounts you can deposit this way are rather small.

E-wallets

PayPal, Neteller, and Skrill have always been popular online casino banking methods since they are instant and come with no or very low fees. Another advantage of using them is that you can avoid gambling transactions appearing on your bank statement. Note, that some e-wallets that are funded with credit cards are also banned.

Overview of the UK Online Gambling Scene in 2022

Bank transfer

Bank transfers are also accepted by almost all online casinos. They are a secure way of sending and receiving money and are suitable for handling large sums. However, this is the slowest method for both depositing and withdrawing to and from your casino account. 

Leading UK casino operators in 2022

The best UK online casino operators offer great features, games, and reliable service and accept a wide variety of convenient payment methods. All of them are reputable sites that comply with local laws and regulations and offer fair games and payment methods that are available for UK players. The list of such sites is very long as there are dozens of quality sites out there, but this is our pick:

  • Bet365;
  • BetFred;
  • Paddy Power;
  • 888 Casino;
  • William Hill;
  • Betfair;
  • Coral;
  • BetVictor;
  • Mansion Casino;
  • Casino Planet;
  • Genesis Casino;
  • Ladbrokes;
  • Betway;
  • Pokerstars Casino;
  • Betiton;
  • Unibet;
  • Casumo;
  • Jackpotjoy.

New casino sites that are worth your while can be found below. All these sites were established in 2021 and 2022 and seem promising.

  • ZetBet;
  • Aztec Wins;
  • Double Bubble Bingo;
  • Megaways Casino;
  • The Vic Grovenor Casinos;
  • Spin Rio.

Most popular casino games

Slots

Just like all over the world, the favorite online casino game of UK players is slots. These one-armed bandits come in many themes and different functions. From simple 3-reeled fruit machines to complicated 6-reel video slots, you will find thousands of slot games in UK online casinos. Note, that because of the recent gambling legislation, UK players typically cannot buy the bonus features of these games. The most popular slots include:

  • Book of Dead;
  • Reactoonz 2;
  • Gonzo’s Quest;
  • Dead or Alive 2;
  • Bonanza Megaways; 
  • Star Clusters Megaclusters;
  • Starburst.

Roulette

Roulette is the number one choice of British table game lovers. The game is simple and depending on your risk appetite you can place inside or outside bets that come with different odds and payouts.

Scratch cards

These games are popular both in online casinos and high-street gambling establishments. They come with a lot of excitement and offer lucrative wins for a small wager.

Overview of the UK Online Gambling Scene in 2022

Most popular sports betting events in 2022

When it comes to sports betting, traditionally, UK punters’ top choices are football, horse racing, and greyhound racing. However, with so many exciting sports events being organized for the first time after the Coronavirus lockdown measures, there are many betting options available this spring, summer, and winter. These were/are the most popular ones:

  • Scottish Grand National Festival, Aintree’s Grand National, and the US Kentucky Derby;
  • FA Cup and the UEFA Cup Champions League final;
  • Women’s Chevron Championship and men’s Master’s Tournament;
  • French Open;
  • Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone;
  • Wimbledon;
  • London Marathon;
  • US Open;
  • FIFA World Cup Final.

Online gambling on social media

Online gambling is becoming more and more popular every year. In recent years, we have seen a growing number of players appearing on the social media platform Twitch to stream their gaming sessions and give insights about their gameplay to fellow players. Some of the most popular Twitch celebrities who earned a name by playing are Trainwreckstv, Roshtein, and Xposed.

Twitch players are paid by casinos for indirectly advertising their platforms, but there are other ways online casinos try to popularize their pages. We have seen several footballers and other sportsmen representing casinos and poker sites over the past decade. Perhaps the best-known such association is between Cristiano Ronaldo and PokerStars. Other footballers who won big at poker are Gianluigi Buffon, Tony Cascarino, Neymar, and Gerard Pique.

Final thoughts

With the new gambling laws soon taking effect and the credit card ban already in place, the UK’s online gambling landscape will certainly change. Tighter controls on bet limits and stricter screenings for problem gambling mean that online casinos will have to concentrate on casual players who gamble with less money. We expect to see new games that are more immersive but less complicated and suitable for mobile users.

Read more: The strangest gambling laws in Europe

Read more: UK gambling market report overview

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