Examining the attitudes and preferences of young gamblers in the UK
November 3rd, 2023, Rishad Dsouza

Examining the attitudes and preferences of young gamblers in the UK

UK consumers aged 18-24 make up about a tenth (10%) of all gamblers in the market according to data from YouGov Global Gambling Profiles. This is slightly lower than the share they make up in the overall British population (12%), but their penchant for staking higher amounts makes them a very important audience segment for marketers and regulators to understand.

In fact, among UK gamblers who stake over £500 each month, the share of 18–24-year-olds shoots up nearly three times to 28%. So, what are the unique motivations of these young UK gamblers and what are their opinions about the industry more broadly?

But before we get into that, let’s look at the percentage of all 18-24 year olds who place bets. Our data shows that 92% of UK’s members of this age group did not place bets online in the past 12 months. Perhaps surprisingly, they’re far more likely to have placed offline bets, with only 75% indicating they didn’t place an offline bet in the past year. This goes to show that offline gambling still holds sway in the UK market, even among young adults who have grown up in the internet age.

Still, they are more likely than older gamblers to place online bets, of whom 97% say they didn’t place an online bet last year. So, what are the activities they actually bet on? Among those that do bet online, the younger lot are markedly more likely to have participated in fantasy sports for money (11% vs 5%), which contrasts against their lower inclination rates towards traditional sports betting. This demographic also displays a budding interest in esports betting, with 6% having engaged in it in the past month vs just 2% of older UK gamblers.

While only over a third of them said they placed a bet at a sports bookmaker online in the past month (36%) that proportion rises to nearly half among older gamblers (47%). They are also only half as likely to have participated in the lottery online (19% vs 40%) and are less likely to purchase scratch cards (5% vs 8%).

Within sports betting, their tastes deviate quite interestingly. While young gamblers are markedly less likely to bet on traditional betting sports like football (38% vs 47%) and horse racing (18% vs 41%), they are noticeably more likely to bet on others, such as boxing (13% vs 9%), tennis (12% vs 8%) and motor racing (10% vs 5%).

Motivations of younger UK gamblers

Compared with older gamblers, those aged between 18-24 are notably less likely to cite fun or enjoyment as a motivation for gambling (34% vs 42%). Similarly, just a quarter of them cite favourable ‘odds’ as a factor that motivates their betting choices compared to over a third of older gamblers who say the same (26% vs 35%). Instead, these younger gamblers are significantly more likely to feel motivated by the ability to compete against others (12% vs 3%). In the same vein of a competitive spirit, these younger gamblers are also more likely to feel motivated by ability to ‘use a particular method or strategy’ (12% vs 8%) and are drawn by games that allow them to take larger risks (6% vs 3%).

Having established their tendency for heavier spending and distinguished betting preferences, it’s worth examining how this audience chooses online betting brands. Like the bulk of gamblers in the UK, sites that present an easy-to-use interface (34% vs 43%) and those that offer the best odds (31% vs 35%) are the biggest influencing factors, although to a lesser relative extent.

These younger gamblers are relatively more likely to appreciate gambling apps that offer variety – be it in the selection of matches/events/sports to bet on (16% vs 13%), the range of gambling types available (15% vs 8%) or the selection of slots/games to play (14% vs 9%). For gambling brands that offer variety, amplifying this aspect in marketing could be a way to capture a foothold among younger gamblers.

But for both marketers and regulators, there remains perhaps a greater duty of care towards this younger audience. These young bettors are likelier to say that they see too much betting advertising (59% vs 48%), which is perhaps why they are less approving of gambling companies sponsoring sports teams or events (25% vs 32%).

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