The gambling industry makes substantial contributions to many economies, but the way players around the world gamble differs from country to country. An examination of how and why these behaviours vary offer interesting glimpses into cultures, societies, governments and individuals.
From the operator's point of view, this data can also provide valuable insight into how a casino can be optimised for profitability and player satisfaction.
What the data says
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to designing a casino. By understanding player preferences – including relating to different slot games, bonuses and layouts – casinos aim to tailor their services to the specific wants of a particular group or demographic.
Studies regarding international gambling behaviours have been published, but there aren’t as many sources as one would hope. That said, there are a few fascinating tidbits to be gleaned from the data that is available…
According to the Every Matrix statistics, Romanian players enjoy classic slot games, suggesting nostalgia for the era of the brick-and-mortar casino, and prefer to play familiar physical games that have been converted for online play.
These games tend to feature relatively few bonus features, simple mechanics, and traditional themes such as fruits and lucky 7s, which were found to be very popular in this corner of Europe.
This makes logical sense, considering that the Romanian gambling market has only been regulated since 2010. Previously most gambling took place at physical locations.
Romanians also appear to enjoy bonus buy slot games – controversial in some countries and banned by the Gaming Commission (UKGC) after it was deemed that vulnerable players were at risk of losing too much money in too short a period of time.
Bonus buy features appear to be largely responsible for the relatively high average bet size, which was €2.59 across the top 20 games, but up to 16.5x higher than this for bonus buy titles.
Compared to others around the globe, Brazil’s players appear to be risk-takers and, reinforcing stereotypes perhaps, thrill-seekers.
A majority of Brazilian players (56%) prefer medium and high volatility titles, illustrating that the rush associated with holding out for a big win surpasses a desire for many smaller wins of a low-volatility alternative.
Furthermore, Brazilians appear to be highly competitive, as demonstrated by their enthusiasm for tournaments and challenges. These additional elements of the gambling experience evidently generate greater pleasure.
Thematically, animals, fantasy and fruits are most popular in Brazil. In terms of bonuses, wilds, multipliers and free spins had the greatest impact on retention rates and game popularity.
Across the top 20 titles in Brazil, the average bet was €1.04, but this increased around 8x for high volatility slots, indicating a clear preference.
The Greek findings differ from those generated in Romania and Brazil. Greece is, arguably, closer to Britain, trends-wise, due in part to Greece sharing certain legislative and regulatory similarities with Britain. This includes the banning of bonus buy features and an interest in per-spin slot stake limits.
Greek players, like Romanians, prefer classic designs, with fruit and animal themes dominating the top games lists.
Lower bet sizes and higher volatility levels seem to prevail in Greece, with the average bet across the top 20 titles being just €0.79. This may be indicative of economic difficulties, but Greek players are still enjoying the thrill of higher volatility games.
It also doesn’t change the fact that, perhaps surprisingly, Greeks placed a higher number of bets per session than their Brazilian and Romanian counterparts.
Analyses of British players aren’t easy to find, but there are certain things which can be pieced together from a number of reports, studies and articles.
One tenth of UK players are aged 18-24, making them a substantial demographic that casinos are sure to want to cater to. With younger players so prevalent in the UK gambling industry, operators, developers and casinos will strive to deliver games which most satisfy this group.
These younger players are also significantly more likely to gamble competitively, to be drawn in by favourable odds, and to take greater risks. These behavioural trends have not been adequately studied in all countries, making international comparison difficult.
Whilst examining ‘most popular’ lists of games at UK casinos, it becomes apparent that British players enjoy more elaborate games, perhaps because our regulated industry is a relatively mature one.
Certain familiar titles stand out: Starburst, Book of Dead, Big Bass Bonanza, Immortal Romance, Mega Moolah, Rainbow Riches among many. These games frequently involve more elaborate mechanics, such as bonus rounds (although not those which can be bought into), jackpots and other features. Megaways slots are also popular in the UK, lending more weight to the fact us Brits love a more intricate maths model.
An analysis of these slots suggests that UK players tend to prioritise high RTPs with most players demanding somewhere close to 96% as a minimum. However, we don't appear to have much preference when it comes to volatility. Starburst and Book of Dead have quite different volatility levels and both are equally popular. Many of the popular slots in the UK are often the subject of a Free Spins Bonus so it could be that players continue to play games they discovered via a welcome deal.
Also, UK players appear to enjoy slots with high-end graphics and sound effects, and a sleeker, more premium aesthetic overall.
Regarding themes, established IPs, such as those based on film franchises are popular, as are Irish, Egyptian and fishing-themed titles. Some of Britain’s favourite themes seem to be a look to the nostalgia and grandeur of colonial times, or to the beautiful simplicity of the English countryside.
Players in Britain seem to demand more experience for their money. According to the recent government consultation report, the average stake ranged from £0.98 to £1.53, depending on age group, which would be almost twice as much as Greece, but much less than Romania.
Because of the lack of data regarding British players’ preferences, quantitative comparisons aren’t easily drawn.
But, whilst some of these observations are anecdotal, they do chime with the preferences of this particular Brit! I personally enjoy the titles which frequently feature in ‘most popular’ lists, largely because they have the potential of a healthy return and some high-end visuals. I also find there’s a lot to be said for an immersive, escapist theme like Book of Dead’s take on Ancient Egypt.
In regions like Romania, where classic formats are still preferred, casinos are working to provide more of these games, replicating land-based slots as best as possible, whilst incorporating modern features, such as enhanced gamification and personally customised jackpots to maximise profitability.
In Brazil, operators will likely lean into the player preference for competition, offering more head-to-head battles, tournaments, and the opportunity to ascend tiered challenge systems.
There is more research to be done if international gambling behavioural differences are to be truly understood. Casinos around the world will surely capitalise on this data, tailoring their services for different territories to optimise profitability, increase player retention, and maximise their market share.