Poker revenues down despite record yields for the gambling industry

  • Online poker sees a decline, with a drop of £185 million since 2009
  • The sport constitutes for only 5% of the online gambling market
  • In contrast, sports betting and online slots continue to thrive

With gross revenues of £1.65 billion between April 2016 and March 2017, the UK’s online gambling industry continues to flourish – but internet poker remains in decline. The gambling industry as a whole has benefitted from the relative lack of regulation in the country. With this in mind, poker’s fall in popularity may come as a surprise. So, what’s the story? Let’s take a closer look…

The figures

Back in 2015, iGaming Business asked ‘Where have all the poker players gone?’, and the fact is that online poker has been in decline for a decade. In 2009, online poker revenues stood at £287 million, but data from the Gambling Commission shows this fell to £102 million between 2016 and 2017.

By contrast, online slots brought in £1.65 billion, while the sports-betting market generated £1.87 billion in the same period. As a whole, the UK gambling industry grows by a whopping 10.1% each year.

Also during this period, the gross gambling yield (GGY) was £2.62 billion. This means that online poker constitutes just 5% of the online gambling market. These figures suggest online poker may be on its last legs as punters flock to slots, bingo and sports betting, all of which many see as more exciting options. 

What is the industry doing to reverse its fortunes?

PokerStars, which boasts a 60% share of what’s left of the global market, decided back in 2015 that it could no longer rely on online poker as its main source of revenue. As a result, it continues to broaden its horizons by introducing new casino games and sports betting.

The company used a clever cross-selling approach to advertise its new betting services to its still-massive pool of online poker players. As a result, PokerStars’ parent company, The Stars Group, reported a rise of 12.5% in online poker revenues (which hit £165.53 million this year). Yet while this may look impressive, PokerStars’ casino games and sports books saw an income rise by 48%!

The Gambling Commission’s 2017 report suggests that gamblers prefer fun games to those which require skill. This is surely one key reason why poker is losing out and it is therefore down to operators to find new ways of attracting players.

Operators like Partypoker and 888poker have continued along a well-worn path and have maintained a decent level of success. But this is arguably because they have the money to advertise on TV and are also able to offer larger jackpots and in-game bonuses to hold players’ interests.

So in the future, we may see poker tournaments that introduce a degree of chance in order to follow bingo’s lead and make the card game more fun.

The future doesn’t look bright for the global market either

Optimists may dismiss the Gambling Commission’s data as an anomaly. After all, the UK is a tiny country and not necessarily representative of the state of online poker across the world.

However, the UK has one of the largest online gambling markets on Planet Earth, and is home to PokerStars, the number one poker operator in the world.

Because both the UK and PokerStars have such a high standing in the world of online gaming, it is safe to assume that their figures reflect the decline – or future decline – of online poker everywhere.