Say “Denmark” and what do think of? Smorgasbord, the Little Mermaid and strolling by the harbour in Copenhagen. And unless you’ve been living in a cave you can’t fail to have come across “hygge” – the Danish concept of being good to yourself, of cosy contentment and wellbeing.
What you almost certainly don’t think of is gambling – and yet like many countries around the world, gambling in Denmark is thriving, with turnover continuing to increase.
The Danish Gambling Authority (DGA) has just released data showing that gambling revenues for the final quarter of 2017 were significantly up, as total revenues increased by 6.9% year on year.
Online casinos reported a 16.7% increase, equivalent to DKK22.8m ($3.78m, £2.72m). If these seem like small figures – earlier this week we reported how illegal gambling on the Indian Premier League would be around £2bn – remember that the population of Denmark is only 5.7m.
Betting on sports is also becoming increasingly popular in Denmark – the fourth quarter was up by 23% compared with the third quarter and by 29% over the last three months of 2016.
And like many countries, Denmark is seeing a big move towards online gambling: Denmark’s “land-based” casinos saw their revenue decline by 4.4% in the fourth quarter (although that could be explained by the fact that October, November and December are not terribly warm months in Denmark).
More worryingly though, their revenues were down by 3.3% on a year-on-year basis. Revenues also declined for arcade and restaurant gaming.
Global gambling revenues
As you would expect, Denmark has always had a reasonably liberal attitude to gambling, and in January of this year the DGA relaxed the rules on horseracing, dog racing and betting on pigeon racing. This followed earlier liberalisation in 2012, so it seems that Denmark’s love affair with gambling – especially online – is set to continue. But how do the Danes compare to the rest of the world in what is a rapidly expanding market?
Total gambling revenues for the world (including casinos) are currently estimated at approximately $450bn (£320bn), with this figure projected to rise to just under $500bn (£358bn) by 2020. That is from legal, documented gambling – add in illegal gambling, and the figures are going to be significantly higher.
The share of the revenue taken by online gambling is increasing rapidly. In 2010 the size of the online gambling market was put at $27bn (£19bn). By 2015 this had increased to $41bn (£29bn) and is now put at $56bn (£40bn). Projections suggest that online gambling will reach $100bn (£72bn) early in the next decade, by which time it will be accounting for around 20% of the world gambling market.
So who loses the most?
The biggest gamblers in the world are Australians, with figures suggesting adult gamblers in Oz lose just under $1,000 (US$782, £560) a year on average, thanks to the nation’s addiction to sports betting and slot machines.
Australia is followed in the league table by Singapore – a country that only opened its first casino in 2010 but has since become one of the largest gambling countries in the world, with the government actively taking steps to counter addiction.
Next in the league table come Ireland, Finland, the USA and New Zealand. Where does Denmark come? It’s in 14th place, with annual losses per adult estimated at around $300 (£215). That puts it below the UK and just ahead of Malta, with virtually all the countries showing a significant percentage of their gambling being done online.
As mobile technology improves at an ever-faster pace, the world’s love affair with gambling is likely to strengthen.
This time next year the DGA will almost certainly be reporting another set of increased figures, as hygge comes to mean not just a hot chocolate and a roaring fire, but also a few kroner on the correct score and how many corners FC Copenhagen get.