The Global Gambling Review 2021

Across the world gambling is big business. Global gambling statistics indicate that a colossal 4.2 billion people gamble at least once a year. In monetary terms, the market value of the gambling industry in 2020 stood at $465.76 billion.

Those figures represent every type of activity that is considered to come under the definition of gambling, including land-based casinos, bookmakers, bingo halls, lottery ticket sellers and slots in other premises. In addition, each sector has its own online variations which alone accounted for $66.7 billion of the 2020 total.

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What did we find?

This report will take a look at five of the most prevalent global gambling regions to find out how each of them currently contributes to those statistics:

  • Germany
  • UK
  • US
  • Canada
  • Australia

While many reports focus on historic gambling statistics, the emphasis here is on recent and current facts and figures, gleaned from trusted and reliable sources. As far as the future is concerned, industry experts have put forward a number of different outcomes for industry growth over the next five to ten years.

However, with many countries currently revising their gambling laws and the true impact of the Covid-19 pandemic yet to manifest, how accurate any prediction might be will only become apparent over time.



Germany has a population totalling 83 million, with 51.4 million falling into the 18 – 64 age range. Figures for that group show:

  • 79.1% have gambled at least once in their life
  • 48% have gambled in the last 12 months
  • 20% gamble every week

The estimated revenue in 2020 across the German gambling industry was €16.8 billion, equating to an average spend of €202 on a per capita basis. This is how it was spent:

  • Sports betting (38%)
  • Casino entertainment (34%)
  • Poker (24%)
  • Other gambling (4%)

Football is by far the most popular sport with bettors, followed by horse racing, tennis and ice hockey. Germans are also some of the world’s most astute gamblers, evidenced by the €95 average wins per capita.

Although it is currently illegal to gamble online, individuals are not persecuted in any way for doing so. However, that does mean there is no reliable data available for where and how they gamble. With 81% of Germans aged 18 to 69 owning a smartphone, it can be assumed that a good percentage are using mobile devices.

Changes to come

Germany is currently in a state of flux where legal gambling is concerned. However, the implementation of the Interstate Treaty on Gambling (ISTG) 2021, expected in July 2021 should make this much clearer.

Online operators will need to apply for a license to offer online slot machines, online sports betting or online poker in Germany. Licensing will not include online casino games such as roulette and blackjack, or live-dealer versions of the same.

In 2019, the revenue from gambling totalled €14.2 billion, of which €10 billion was derived from land-based casinos, slot machines in other locations and lottery terminals. The remainder is accounted for by online gambling activities.

Using these 2019 statistics as a guideline the German authorities are expecting to achieve two things with the implementation of ISTG 2021:

  • To increase German gambling revenue
  • To control individual levels of online gambling

There is also a thriving grey gambling market enjoyed by German online bettors, which is purported to account for a further €4 to €20 billion. Although those figures are difficult to define, it represents the opportunity for increased legal revenue for the German government.

The ISTG 2021 will also address responsible gambling by limiting players to one account to access all of the regulated online providers in Germany. However, they will not be permitted to use multiple operators simultaneously. In addition, each player will be required to set their own monthly limit, with the maximum permitted amount capped at €1000 per month.

The individual account set up process is expected to be stringent and designed to ensure that under age gambling is prevented. On the whole, Germany has fewer problem gamblers than most of Europe. The total number in the country in 2018 was reported at around 325,000 or 0.56% in percentage terms.


During the period April 2019 to March 2020, the regulated gambling industry in the UK generated a gross gambling yield (GGY) of £14.2 billion. With a population count of 66.65 million, that equates to a per capita spend of around £213.

The UK gambling industry is fuelled by approximately 24 million gamblers. Of those, 10.5 million gamble online with a 51% male, 41% female division (the remaining 8% declined to state their gender).

  • 45% of UK residents gamble in some way each month.
  • 53% of the total spend is on lotteries and scratchcards
  • 30% of British residents played the National Lottery in 2019
  • 47% of British residents engaged in some form of gambling every week
  • £1.2 billion is donated to problem gambling charities every year
  • £1.6 billion from the National Lottery was used to fund good causes in 2019

The UK also reports an exceptionally high proportion of mobile device usage for gambling, with a figure of 50% across all sectors.

Licensing and changes

All UK gambling is under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) which is a Tier-1 authority recognised across the world as being stringent. The UKGC has made a number of changes over the past few years, not all of which have been welcomed by the gambling industry.

These have included banning credit card transactions to gambling operations and legislation relating to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in land-based premises. In addition, certain changes have been made to the ways in which gambling operators can advertise and there are further proposals in the pipeline which call for a total ban on sports sponsorship by gambling operators.

The UKGC claims that these changes are necessary to address the area of problem gambling in the UK, which currently stands at 0.5%. There is little evidence so far to suggest that the changes have resulted in a visible decrease to the number of problem gamblers, but they have had devastating effects on certain gambling sectors.

One example is land-based bookmakers, where two household names were forced to close a combined total of 800 shops as a direct result of the FOBT restrictions. That was prior to the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns, which are certain to increase that figure.


In 2019, the US gambling market hit a new high approaching $261 billion, according to the American Gaming Association. With a US population of 328 million, that represents a per capita spend on gambling of just under $800. Sports betting revenue alone in the United States amounted to over 900 million U.S. dollars in 2019.

The US gambling market is very much the province of sports bettors, with football being the clear leader by far. According to US gambling statistics, 77% of all sports bets are football-related with 24% of those being wagered on the NFL specifically. Horse racing comes in at a surprise second, having edged in just ahead of basketball and baseball.

Legalisation of sports betting

In May 2018, when the US Supreme Court overturned a federal law which prohibited US states from legally permitting sports betting, history was made. Prior to the 2018 PASPA decision, statistics suggest that as few as 3% of sports bets were placed through legal channels, with bettors opting to use offshore online operations.

In the same year a Nielsen survey revealed some interesting facts, giving a strong indication that the decision was the correct one:

  • 80% of all US residents believe all gambling, including online should be legal
  • 71% said they would place bets if it was legal to do so
  • 47% of the millennial age group declared a dislike of land-based casinos
  • 90% of online bets are placed using a mobile device

The implications of that survey prompted a fast response from the state of New Jersey, where the first legal sports bet was placed at Monmouth Park racetrack on 11 June 2018.

According to the American Gaming Association, at the end of 2020, there were 25 US states plus the District of Columbia, which had already approved sports betting, although not necessarily online.

Of the remaining 25 states, a further 14 seem likely to make the move in 2021. Of the final 11 there is currently no active progression at the time of writing. One of those is Utah, the one state that is highly unlikely to legalise, as it is openly and aggressively anti-gambling.

Other online gambling

Other areas of online gambling including casinos, slots and poker have also been legalised in a limited number of states, but progress is slow and on a much smaller scale than for sports betting.

Pool betting or sweepstakes betting has been a big draw for horse racing fans for several years. However, there are now operators also offering sports betting, poker, slots and casino games in a sweepstake-style format. Presented correctly, sweepstakes gambling is legal in every US state, with the exception of Washington State.

Benefits of legalisation

In 2018, the American Gaming Association estimated that the US spend on illegal gambling was in the region of $150 million per annum. It also went on to say that the legalisation of sports betting could potentially boost the US economy by an extra $55 billion per year.

Since 2018, the decrease in offshore gambling activities has undoubtedly benefited the gambling industry, but it has also given a boost to sports as well. In 2020, several high-value partnerships or sponsorship deals were announced by leading gambling operators.

The US is unique in its tolerance of this type of advertising, which is in complete contrast to the attitudes of the UK and Europe, both of which are considering bans in the belief that it leads to problem and under-age gambling. The US does not have a high rate of problem gambling compared to other countries, nor does it believe that it is linked to media exposure.


The gambling industry in Canada is a thriving one, with around 20 million Canadians engaging in some form of gambling at least once a year. Gambling is culturally acceptable across the whole of Canada, although the sector statistics for each of Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories are notably different.

In 2020, the market value of the gambling industry was around $15 billion, giving a per capita spend of approximately $750. The total gambling revenue generated for 2020 was $2.65 billion, with 55% attributed to land-based gambling and 45% from online pursuits.

Where those figures get interesting is in the male/female demographics:

  • Land-based gambling: male 57%, female 43%
  • Online gambling: male 80%, female 20%

Although that might appear skewed, most online gambling is in the 18 – 34 age group, which is heavily populated by tech-savvy males.


Gambling is legal across the whole of Canada in one form or another, but the current system of legislation is fairly complex, particularly so on the subject of online gambling. Canada is divided into 10 provinces and three territories. At present, licensing for online operators requires an application to the representative authority.

However, to operate outside of the local region, a special licence is required, which can only be obtained from one of four provinces: British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario or Quebec. In addition, although sports betting is permitted, it is currently confined to parlay betting only. The current system also leaves a void where Canadian residents can legally use an offshore operator, resulting in billions of dollars in lost revenue every year.

Proposed changes

At the end of 2020, in recognition of the issues detailed above, the Federal Justice Minister proposed legislation to decriminalise single event sports betting. If this is passed, each state or territory would ‘adopt’ a private operation which can provide competitive sports betting facilities.

A second proposal was put forward by the province of Ontario in relation to regulation of the online gambling market as a whole. In short, this would be under the jurisdiction of a new entity which would have authority to manage and regulate online gaming provided by third party operators.

If passed, the proposals would generate billions of additional revenue for Canada by harnessing what is currently a grey gambling market. At the same time providing Canadians access to legal, regulated gambling opportunities.


The Australian attitude to gambling is generally laid back, as are the quaint colloquial terms they use for their favourite gambling pastimes:

  • Pokies – slots, or any machine, either physical or online that features reels
  • Cardies – a reference to old-school poker machines, the ones that had reels
  • Lotto – a lottery draw
  • Scratchies – any type of scratchcard or related game

In terms of Australia’s gambling statistics, the spend on lottery games and scratchcards is the main gambling interest by far and there is a complex list of daily, weekly and monthly draws to select from, not forgetting the seemingly endless availability of scratchards.

There is little doubt about the next Australian gambling preference, which is dominated by the much-loved ‘pokies’ which is the colloquial name for slot machines. There is no particular preference for physical slots over their online counterparts and 1.2 million Australians play them every week.

To give an example, Australia represents around 0.3% of the total world population, but houses 18% of the world’s slots, which amounts to around 200,000 pokies in commercial premises alone. In other words there is one pokie machine per 110 Australian residents.

Australian punters have the highest per capita spend on gambling in the world, registering at AU$800. Australian punters cheerfully lose most of their gambling funds every year too, with the loss per person averaging out at AU$1005.


Australia’s licensing is far less relaxed and operates on two levels. Firstly, all gambling policies and statutes are set out at the federal level. Thereafter, each Australian state or territory becomes responsible for the issue of licenses to gambling operations, as well as ensuring that federal requirements are adhered to.

Each of the nine separate state/territory authorities also has sufficient autonomy to determine which gambling activities are permitted within its own jurisdiction. Encouraging responsible gambling is also a matter delegated at this level, as Australia does have a slightly higher than average number of problem gamblers.


The statistics for each region clearly show that every country has been affected by the 2020 Covid-19 pandemics and the lockdowns. Some land-based gambling sites are unlikely to re-open and for others the recovery is projected over a number of years. At present, lower permitted attendance numbers and a general public fear of entering them are reducing income to a level that is untenable in the long term.

Conversely, online gambling saw a huge global increase which is likely to continue, with statistics experts predicting an annual growth of 11.4%, equating to a value of $158 billion by 2028. One key factor for growth in this area is the availability of online payment methods outside of standard banking methods.

In terms of problem gambling, it must be noted that the majority of gambling statistics readily available relate to population percentages and per capita gambling spend or loss. Nobody can deny that there is little information available relating to more defined demographics.

For example, whilst a gambling spend of $1000 could represent a 10% portion of earned income for some, for others it might be 1%, or even less. There is also no specific data available that directly links problem gambling to any specific cause.

In the immediate future, sports betting is likely to be the leading vertical, especially as more US states opt to legalise, but Europe is predicted to show the biggest per capita growth in this area. Niche sports are currently showing the greatest increase in betting interest, but mainstream sports are sure to prevail due to the endless possibilities for prop and in-play wagering.

As far as the prevalence of mobile gambling goes, it is surely going to increase. Already, the trend for using mobile devices vs desktop machines is on the increase and will no doubt continue with the increased power and capabilities of smartphones especially.

Across most regions, sectors and various markets, the gambling industry as a whole is currently in great shape and looks set to continue that way over the next few years.

Problem Gambling by Jurisdiction


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