There are lots of contenders to the answer of the question “what has been the biggest change in online gambling over the past two decades?”. Perhaps you might consider it to be the rise and rise of online video slots. Others might say it’s the invention of live casino games and their monumental increase in popularity. A third choice could be the intervention of the relevant authorities to create a stricter online gambling environment.
However, in our opinion at NewCasinos.org, the biggest change in online gambling over the past twenty years or so has been the move from online casinos to mobile casinos. Go back to 2003 or 2004 and the majority of online gamblers would be found playing slots or blackjack on their desktop PCs. These days, most people play slots or use a sports betting app on their phones as opposed to their PCs or laptops.
It’s hard to imagine a time before we all spent most of the day tied to our phones
This comes as no surprise. Since 2000 our love of mobile devices has expanded exponentially. Smartphones as so integral to our lives now it’s tough to think how we coped before they were invented.
A poll conducted in 2012 showed – surprisingly perhaps – that only 40 percent of us used a smartphone. By 2018 that number had doubled to around 80 percent. In 2016 it was announced that mobile devices had overtaken computers as the chief method of surfing the world wide web.
Perhaps disappointingly, a further survey by Ofcom in 2018 asked people which device they would miss the most if they were forced to do without it. The winner was the mobile phone, overtaking the television for the first time.
Mobile phone use has helped increased the numbers of people whom gamble online
This increase in mobile phone use has also seen an increase in the numbers of people whom gamble online, and it’s easy to assume a correlation between the two. In 2015, when records of mobile gambling were first obtained by the UKGC, the number of people who said that they had gambled using a mobile device in the past four weeks stood at 23 percent. By 2019, the number had virtually doubled to 44 percent.
As part of a 2019 survey, the UKGC asked people what they felt about online gambling using their smartphones. For many, they said that gambling using a phone was ‘easier’ and ‘more comfortable’. For them, it made sense to play online bingo on their sofa using their phone, or place a bet in a pub using their mobile while watching a match on the TV. The UKGC commented about their concerns that online gambling using a phone had become ‘low friction’, in that it could be done virtually any place, any time. This was in comparison to the ‘high friction’ of having to be in a specific place (i.e. seated at a computer or with a laptop) in order to place bets or play slots.
The UKGC expressed other concerns:
- That mobile gambling had become as much as part of people’s internet-based lives as using Facebook or Twitter, and was therefore hard to ignore.
- That mobile gambling meant that online gambling was now accessible 24/7, leading to repetitive playing or even binge-playing.
- That mobile gambling as opposed to real-world gambling meant that no staff were available to suggest that someone was gambling too much or too dangerously, and that they needed to take a break
Gamblers also expressed concerns that mobile gambling had removed traditional barriers to gambling – meaning that it could now be done ‘in secret’, free from physical boundaries, or the judgement and intervention of others. Other ‘removed’ boundaries thanks to mobile gambling and internet anonymity included gender boundaries, such as woman being seen in betting shops, or men in bingo halls.
Despite all this, it was revealed that very few people considered mobile gambling to be a source for problem gambling. The general consensus was that problem gamblers tended to gather at real world gambling destinations, such as casinos, betting shops and poker games.
Mobile gambling has opened up a whole world of gambling to all phone owners
Others admitted that they used online gambling apps to ‘play games’ while unwinding or watching TV while being disengaged. For some, it had become as much of their online lives as using social apps or chatting to their friends. While the hugest majority of such people were not problem gamblers, many stated that they did not gamble at all before the availability of online gambling via mobile phones.
All this information adds to the way that gambling using mobile devices need to be examined, and in an extremely methodical way. People only become alcoholics if they are given access to alcohol in the first place, so there’s the possibility that the likelihood for many of becoming problem gamblers would never be an issue if mobile gambling had never been created.
Most of us in developed countries spend the best proportion of our day online. While for many of us online gambling using mobile devices seems insignificant, for many others it’s an unintentional gateway to a problem they are likely to have otherwise avoided. The question has to be raised – was this ever a part of the advancement of the internet that was ever serious considered?
As a result of its findings, the UKGC has announced that it will continue to conduct research that will enhance the commission’s understanding of how mobile gambling has changed all forms of gambling in the United Kingdom, and added that it would welcome comments from people who gamble using mobile devices in an effort to further its research.
Remember that here at NewCasinos.org, we always encourage nothing but responsible gambling, especially when done using phones or other mobile devices. When you feel you are not being entertained by your gambling then stop doing it, and never, ever gamble with money that you cannot afford to lose.