It has been one of the most recent gambling success stories, but new research from Mintel finds the recession has seen Britain’s poker players keep a firmer grip of their wallets.
After impressive growth of 72% between 2004 and 2007, last year the online poker market stagnated, with gross gaming yield valued at £265 million in 2008. What is more, in 2009, online poker is expected to decline by 7% to £247 million. Indeed, exclusive research from Mintel finds almost a third of players admit to having changed their poker habits as a result of the impact of the recession – playing the game less often or for smaller stakes. Average spend per year has fallen by almost 20% in the past 2 years, down from £345 in 2007 to £281 in 2009.
Matt King, Senior Leisure Analyst at Mintel said:
“Poker revenues have clearly peaked. The recession is the most obvious culprit, with around a third of poker players now playing less often or for lower stakes because of the economic downturn. However, there may be other inherent problems that the industry has to address. Rakeback promotions, for one thing, are minimising margins and this shows the emphasis is on customer numbers, not the profit generated per customer. Lack of time is another factor impacting on play, possibly suggesting work pressures in the current recession are having a toll on players’ free time. “
Despite declining revenues, the industry does boast a loyal base of customers. Today, over half of poker players play once a week or more, while around a third of online players play once a week or more. What is more, those who are playing are playing with greater sophistication, as around one third of online players play on more than one table, indicating a growing degree of experience among players.
And while the online game has been hit, its effects have been much less than for the live game played in commercial venues like casinos, clubs and pubs. Player boredom has played a part in the decline in live poker, suggesting that site refreshment is needed as well as more innovation. By contrast, a real strength of the online poker world is the diversity of sites available, which allows players motivated by various forces to find a site or room that appeals to them.

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