In recent years, the retail economy in Britain has seen consumers shift away from traditional payment methods. People are using cash much less often than they used to and are embracing new digital and contactless ways of paying for goods and services.
In 2018 UK Finance reported that debit cards overtook cash for the first time as the most frequently used payment method in the UK, whilst cash payments continued to fall1. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have accelerated this trend, with over half of all payments being made by cards in 2020.2
Gambling businesses are keen to ensure that they can offer their customers the same level of choice in payment options as other sectors of the leisure industry. We have provided the industry with a checklist of considerations to assist operators looking to explore new opportunities in cashless technology. But we are also keen to understand the views of consumers and explore their experiences and preferences.
In early 2021 we commissioned 2CV to conduct a piece of research as part of our ongoing work to bring the voice of the consumer into our thinking. The aim was to improve our understanding of the types of payment methods that consumers typically use in land-based gambling, consumer preferences and motivations. The research was conducted via an online survey which was completed by 314 people who had gambled on land-based activities in the previous 12 months.
Nationally representative quotas were applied on age, gender and region to ensure a representative spread of gamblers in the sample.
About our consumer voice research
We use a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to gather views, opinions and insights from gambling consumers. This work complements our nationally representative statistics on gambling participation and the prevalence of problem gambling but goes into more depth on key issues and emerging areas of interest.
Our Consumer Voice research is currently conducted by 2CV, who use a combination of online surveys and online community panels to tap into the voice of gambling consumers and those affected by gambling in Great Britain.
Cash was perceived as the best way to maintain control over gambling spend
The majority (79%) of land-based gamblers feel that paying with cash helps them to feel in control of their spending, with 73% saying that paying with cash makes it easier to keep track of spending, and 70% reporting that paying with cash makes it easier to set limits on spending.
Using a cashless payment method was perceived as making it more difficult to maintain control over gambling spend
85% of land-based gamblers told us that paying via a cashless payment method (such as a debit card or contactless play via a mobile phone) makes it easier to spend more money than was originally intended, 77% feel that cashless makes it easier to spend more time on gambling than intended, and 66% said that using cashless payment methods makes it feel like they are spending less money than they actually are.
|Paying with cash
|Paying with cashless
|Feels like I’m in control of my spending
|Easy to keep track of my spending
|Easy to set limits on my spending
|Difficult to take stock of my total gambling spend after I have finished gambling
|Feels like I’m spending less money than I actual am
|Easy to end up spending more time than I was intending to
|Easy to end up spending more money than I was intending to
There is strong belief in the importance of keeping to a budget when gambling, but less so amongst younger ages and higher risk groups
Nearly all land-based gamblers said that sticking to a budget while gambling is either very or somewhat important, with just over half saying that budgeting is very important.
However, younger respondents, particularly those aged 18 to 34, were less likely to say that budget setting was very important (33%) compared to respondents aged over 55 (72%).
Respondents who scored as moderate risk or problem gamblers on the PGSI were also less likely to say that budget setting was very important (41%).
|18 to 34
|35 to 54
|55 and over
|Non-problem /low risk gambler
|Moderate risk / problem gambler
|Not very/ not important at all
Gamblers feel they are less likely to stick to their budget when using cashless payments
Land-based gamblers told us that they are more likely to spend more money than they intend when paying using chip and pin with a card, contactless via a mobile phone or smart watch, or contactless with a card, but that they are more likely to spend the same amount as they intend to when using cash.
|Chip and pin with a card
|Contactless with a mobile phone/smart watch
|Contactless with a card
|I would spend a lot more
|I would spend a little more
|I would spend the same as I intended
|I would spend a little less
|I would spend a lot less
Cash is the most prominent payment method for land-based gambling, affording the greater control needed versus general spend
While cashless payments are the most prominent payment method for non-gambling retail expenditure such as buying clothes in a shop (93%), buying groceries at the supermarket (91%) or dining out at a restaurant (89%), cash is the most common payment method for land-based gambling activities such as playing fruit or slots machines (77%), placing bets on sports games or races (71%) and visiting casinos (69%).
|Buy clothes in a shop
|Buy groceries at the supermarket
|Dine out at a restaurant
|Place bets on events (TV shows, elections, etc.) in person
|Play virtual gaming machines in a bookmakers
|Order drinks at a bar
|Visit casinos (in person)
|Play bingo (in person)
|Place bets on sports games or races (in person)
|Play fruit or slot machines (in person at a casino, arcade, bingo hall or pub)
Cash is preferred for the control it provides over both spend and privacy, but this is also linked to a cash only legacy in some gambling venues
However, land-based gamblers who prefer to use cashless payments said that this was due to security, the speed and ease of making payments, having a record of transactions, and limiting contact in a post-Covid world. Preference for cashless skews to younger gamblers, moderate risk gamblers and problem gamblers.
A system which records information from cashless transactions could be an effective way to help at risk gamblers
Cashless payments may make it easier for consumers to lose track of their gambling spend.
Introducing an app which can facilitate cashless payments is a potential way to mitigate this issue.
If the app would allow operators to:
- track gambling activity, including time and money spent
- step in when needed
- enable the player to keep track of their own gambling.
22% of respondents said that they would be happy to pay for gambling through a cashless payment method, and for the gambling company to access information on their transactions. However, 33% would not be happy for a gambling company to access their information, with the main concerns being around retaining privacy and controlling spend, which they found easier with cash.
|Non-problem/low risk gamblers
|I would be happy to pay for gambling through a cashless payment method and for the gambling company to access information about my gambling transactions
|I would be happy to pay for gambling through a cashless payment method but I would not be happy for a gambling company to access my gambling transactions
|I would not be happy with this
2CV provided the following additional points to consider.
While the UK is shifting towards cashless payments, it’s important that land-based gambling venues continue to allow cash payments to help gamblers keep control of their spending.
Could education around monitoring spend and budgeting help to protect gamblers from over-spending, particularly younger adults?
There is openness to app-based payment methods that allow the player to control their spend and gambling companies to step in if needed. This could be particularly beneficial if it’s able to help gamblers monitor and control their spend, as it could help reach higher risk gamblers who prefer cashless. To protect gamblers, this should be in addition to, not instead of, the option to pay by cash.