Online gambling has become big business in Great Britain, generating massive revenues for the companies operating in the sector.
According to the Gambling Commission, the total gross gambling yield (GGY) of the gambling industry in Great Britain was £14.3 billion from October 2018 to September 2019.
Remote (or online) gambling was the largest combined sector with £5.5bn GGY, a figure that comprises 38.6% of the overall market.
Online casino games dominated the sector, generating £3.2bn in GGY, with the majority coming from online slots UK games.
GGY for remote betting totalled £2.1bn, led by football and horse betting, with the two sports accounting for 74% of the total market.
From the perspective of Manchester, the fact that playing slots and betting on football are the two most popular gambling activities comes as no surprise.
The proximity of seaside resorts such as Southport, Blackpool and Morecambe resulted in many people in the region playing slots when they were youngsters.
That passion is often carried through to adulthood, making the transition to online slots play an almost inevitable occurrence.
The appetite for football betting is even easier to explain, with the working-class city boasting two of the biggest clubs in the world.
However, those reasons alone are too simplistic to explain why gambling on slots and football are such attractive pastimes to millions of people. Read on as we delve a little deeper.
The Awe and Mystery of Slots
If you have ever visited a casino or an amusement arcade you will have witnessed a player sitting transfixed in front of the machine – eyes raised slightly as one hand taps the spin button.
The player appears to be in a trance-like state, completely immersed into the visuals and sounds being spewed out by the machine.
Gambling expert, Dr David V Forrest, is a slot player and the author of ‘Slots: Praying to the God of Chance’. He says players often get ‘in the zone’ when they play slots.
“They play, they have fun, they expect to lose money,” he wrote. “No rational person goes to a casino really believing they’re going to succeed in the long run. They expect to lose, and yet they go there. How does it work?
“The reels descend. It’s a very powerful thing. They force eyes to do a little up-and-down dance. The eye movement mimics a number of things that are important to us — like submission, hypnotic obedience and also awe.
“I guess the perfect slot machine would be one that is so much fun to play that you never pay any attention to whether you win or not.”
A Yearning for Nostalgia
The desire to play slots can further be explained by feelings of nostalgia, with the games often inducing happy memories of yesteryear.
Many people in Manchester will have historically spent at least a small part of their childhood visiting seaside resorts along the North West coast.
Dr David Jarratt, a tourism researcher at the University of Central Lancashire, has conducted extensive studies the visitor experience and sense of place at traditional British seaside resorts.
He coined the term ‘seasideness’ to describe the happiness that people feel when they revisit the places and experiences they enjoyed in the past.
“These environments, with their connotations of fun and reverie, can evoke happy memories of past holidays and facilitate nostalgia,” said Jarratt.
“Since Victorian times the British seaside has been associated with childhood, not only through beach games, family entertainment and funfairs, but also through a long tradition of children’s literature that encompasses these places.
“However, this nostalgia is not just for our own personal memories of childhood, but also for a collective or social nostalgia for the past more generally.
“These themes of sensoriality, restoration, stability and nostalgia inform the traditional seaside resort’s sense of place.”
People Like to ‘Take Risks’
While the psychology behind playing slots appears to be quite ‘deep’, the enthusiasm for gambling on football is perhaps easier to explain.
Football and betting have become intrinsically linked over the past few years, with hundreds of markets available each day on games taking place around the world.
Placing a bet has become an extension of enjoying the game itself, introducing an exciting additional layer into the matchday experience.
Respected psychologist, Mark D. Griffiths, believes that the basic human desire for thrills and excitement often fuels their urge to gamble.
“Gambling is one of those activities where people effectively can get something for nothing, which is why some people will take risks,” he said.
“The attraction of a lottery, for example, is that, for a very small stake, the individual can have a life-changing experience. Things are further complicated by the fact that most lottery players don’t see the activity as gambling.
“People who enjoy playing roulette or betting on a football match enjoy the betting or gaming experience itself. In short, each gambling activity has its own unique psychology, although there are undoubtedly overlaps.”
Knowledge is Power
Another explanation for why people bet on football can be found in the fact that many fans have very strong views about the sport.
Ask any United or City fan to predict the outcome of games this weekend, and you will undoubtedly be on the receiving end of some strong opinions.
This mentality lends itself to people thinking that they possess the ability to use their knowledge to win the ongoing battle against the bookmakers.
Psychiatrist, Pinhas Dannon, believes that sports gamblers operate under an illusion of control and power unrelated to real-life outcomes.
He says that many punters start placing bets because they believe that they are ‘in the know’ about their chosen sport.
“Sports gamblers seem to believe themselves the cleverest of all gamblers,” he said. “They think that with experience and knowledge – such as player’s statistics, manager’s habits, weather conditions and stadium capacity — they can predict the outcome of a game better than the average person.”