The appointment is consistent with William Hill’s strategy to become a digitally-led company, but given the sector’s journey from high street to online what does the future hold for the UK’s betting shops?
We thought we’d look at the data we hold on gamblers to see how ready they are to make the move away from a real-life experience and into online betting.
Here’s what we found.
As far as internet habits are concerned, it’s a mixed bag. Regular gamblers (by which we mean those who gamble at least once a month) are more likely to perform some activities online than the general public and less likely to perform others.
Importantly, gamblers are significantly more likely to do online banking the than public (78% v 70%), which is one of the first hurdles in performing transactions on the internet.
Gamblers are also much more likely to consume news and sports online (68% v 50%), meaning that they are a) regular browsers and b) easier to reach with online marketing campaigns.
In terms of what they are less likely to do than the general population, it’s not as significant. For example, they are less likely to use online productivity tools, like Google Documents (14% v 18%), and less likely to store files, photos or documents online (20% v 27%). That’s really not going to make too much of a difference when it comes to persuading people to sign up to an online betting account but any bit of internet familiarity will help in this respect.
However, and worryingly for bookmakers, there are a number of online defences set higher among gamblers compared to the general population.
For example, regular gamblers are much more likely to say that they don’t know how to protect their personal information on the internet (59% v 49%) and to say that they find the pace of new technology overwhelming (47% v 39%). These are significant barriers to persuading people to open betting accounts.
With our data, we also have the ability to drill down into these figures even more. So instead of treating offline and online gamblers as a homogenous group, let’s look just at offline gamblers – those who are used to visiting a bookmakers in person.
This group is much more likely to say that they find the pace of technology overwhelming than online gamblers (54% v 36%) and that they are uncomfortable using online banking (32% v 20%). Offline gamblers are also less likely to feel relaxed about using their bank cards online (78% v 92%). In addition, they are generally less reliant on the internet. Only 54% say they couldn’t manage without the internet, compared to 66% of online gamblers.
So, what does this all tell us? Well, in a way what we already know – that there is a continued appetite among gamblers for high street bookmakers. And that despite a decade or more of hard marketing of online alternatives, the views of many punters means that that demand is unlikely to go away.
Suspicion towards online financial transactions, concerns over privacy, failure to keep up with technology. Whether we see them in ourselves or in friends and family, these attitudes are unlikely to go away any time soon – and will continue to fuel demand for a bricks and mortar betting experience for some time to come.