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Online Gambling: North America vs Europe

In 2019 26% of the global population were categorized as ‘regular gamblers’, meaning that last year there were roughly 1.6 billion regular gamblers on the planet.

This figure has been steadily growing over the past two decades and is expected to continue to grow in the years to come, largely thanks to the continued growth of the online gambling sector. 

Naturally, you would think that the USA – home to Las Vegas and several other casino cities – has been at the forefront of the growth of the online sector, but is that the case? Or is the growth of the online sector being powered from somewhere else? 

Read on to find out the answers to those questions as we compare and contrast the online gambling industries in Europe and North America.

Revenue Wars

The best economic measure of an industry is the revenues that it makes, so what better way to compare the online gambling industries in North America and Europe than by looking at their revenues?

The most recent figures for the industry in Europe show that countries within the EU in 2018 posted annual revenues of $34.5 billion whereas North America (Canada & USA combined) posted a slightly lower figure of $31.4 billion.

In isolation, these two figures mean nothing like the population of the two continents is vastly different, so we decided to work out the average annual gambling spend per capita from both regions.

Interestingly that showed that per capita, the annual online gambling spends in North America were a paltry $54.23 whereas in Europe they were $72.33. So why do Europeans spend more than North Americans on online gambling? Let’s address the star-spangled elephant in the room…

The USA

At the time of writing, there are only 14 American states where online gambling is legal and even in those states there are restrictions on which types of online gambling are legal and illegal. In New Jersey, for example, citizens can bet on their favorite sports online and play casino games like poker, blackjack, and roulette online.

Whereas in some states online sports wagering is legal and online casinos are outlawed. As a consequence, the online gambling industry in the USA is severely hamstrung by the law and posts much smaller revenues than European countries and Canada.

For example, of the $31.4 billion in online gambling revenues that North America generated in 2018, only $408 million came from the USA. So, if the USA isn’t the world leader in terms of online gambling, who is?

Las Vegas

The USA may be home to the most famous gambling city on the planet, but when it comes to online gambling the country lags way behind the world leaders.

Canada

The Canadian online gambling industry is a behemoth in comparison to the United States’ and the major countries in Europe. In 2018 the industry generated revenues of $31 billion which equates to an annual spend per capita of $824.68. The large revenue increase is driven by the availability of sites and providers in Canada. Players can now play at an online casino in Canada where they will find a wide range of games, themes, bonuses, and promotions.

The only country that can shine a light on Canada in terms of online gambling is the UK which generated a quarter of the revenues of Canada in 2018 despite having double the population and a much more relaxed gambling environment.

What makes Canada’s figures even more impressive is the fact that every year, around $4 billion is spent by Canadians with offshore gambling companies or in foreign casinos. That’s because of prohibitive laws that have traditionally restricted the ability of Canadian entrepreneurs to set-up online casinos.

Canada’s Confusing Gambling Laws

In the UK an aspiring online casino must apply for a license from the Gambling Commission to offer its services in the country. Whilst there are several guidelines to weed out unscrupulous providers, the process of obtaining a gambling license in the UK is fairly straightforward.

Unfortunately, here in Canada, the same cannot be said. Whilst online gambling is not illegal in Canada, any online betting service must be licensed by or owned by a provincial government to be legal.

The most recent example of this law in action was the launch of Play Alberta, an online casino offering slots and table games which were launched by the Albertan provincial government. As a result of this slightly bizarre law, Albertans have relatively few online gambling options in comparison to their British counterparts.

This lack of choice and variety often forces Canadian players to look to British, or even American sites for better offers, bonuses, and gaming selections. It is estimated that every year Canadians spend at least $1 billion with foreign online gambling companies.

Canada’s Crossroads

As we have learned Canada has a booming online gambling industry that dwarfs the competition in the USA and the UK. However, because of the country’s convoluted laws that success is coming against the odds.

Despite leading the UK in terms of revenues, Canada would do well to follow the British road map of widespread legalization. If this were to happen, Canada’s gambling revenues would grow, but most importantly, the country would begin to reap the many economic benefits of thriving online gambling industry.

The current method of legalization in Canada is not sustainable, so hopefully, the government comes to its senses in the coming years.

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