Is It Greener To Bet Online Or In A Shop, Casino or Bingo Hall?

digital vs retail signsWith the climate being the hot topic of our age and with serious ramifications for the future we thought we would look into the carbon costs of betting and gaming.  In particular whether it is more climate friendly for people to place their bets online or in shops, casinos or bingo halls.

This is part of a series of studies we are doing on carbon costs, recently we looked at the carbon cost of professional sports.

The instinctive answer is that it is surely more efficient to bet online as one website can serve millions of people whereas one shop or casino may only serve hundreds or thousands of people at most.  It isn’t necessarily that straight forward, though.

Retail Betting & Gaming Energy Usage

betfred high street shopIt is hard to give a definitive answer on this but we can look at general trends to try to get an idea.  There are around 7500 betting shops in the UK, give or take.  Each shop uses around £2200 a year in electricity, which roughly equates to around 15,000 kWh.  If heated by gas, as most will be, the cost for that is around £1,150, roughly 20,000 kWh.  All betting shops together, therefore, use an estimated 262.5 million kWh of energy between them each year.

Of course this is impacted by the size of the shop, whether they have gaming and electronic terminals and whether they use air conditioning. It gives you a rough idea though.

A casino or a bingo hall will logically use more power per premises, but there are less of them in all.  There are around 350 bingo halls in the UK and 155 casinos.  In Las Vegas casinos consume one fifth of all the electricity used in the city with a population of 650,000, of course, casinos in the UK are smaller and less extravagant.  Still an average casino will use around 750,000 kWh per year, that is around 116.3 million kWh in total, and an average bingo hall around 10% or that, 75,000 kWh per year and 26.3 million kWh in total.

Overall, therefore, between betting shops, land-based casinos and bingo halls the industry is using in the region of 405 million kWh each year in the UK.  This doesn’t include smaller arcades and other gambling venues and it does not include the additional energy costs generated by company head offices and other premises they use.

These are largely fixed costs, i.e. the overall energy consumptions is not massively affected much by the number of people that physically go into premises – although of course there are indirect energy costs, such as driving to a casino, betting shop or bingo hall.

Online Betting & Gaming Energy Usage

sports betting onlineThings get a lot more complicated when we move online as it is difficult to know exactly how many people are visiting gambling websites, how many times they visit in a day and how many pages they view each time.  Placing a simple sports bet will require far less energy than playing a slot game for half an hour, for example.  We can however, like with retail betting, look at general trends to give an idea.

The internet now uses around 420 terawatt hours of electricity annually, that is more than the whole of the UK uses in a year (~300 terawatt hours).  Websites have also gotten more hungry over time, as internet speeds have increased webmasters are making websites bigger and more resource hungry, which increases energy consumption and carbon cost overall.

Helpfully, though, there are tools available to help work out how much energy and carbon a website uses and from that we can extrapolate some figures.  The table below shows how much energy five popular websites use, splitting between sports and casino sections.  We used Website Carbon Calculator for these results.

WebsiteCarbon (g) / VisitCarbon (kg) / 10k ViewsEquivalent Trees To Absorb / 10k ViewsEnergy (kWh) / 10k Views
William Hill (sports)1.12134.087282
William Hill (casino)1.53183.829387
Betfred (sports)2.29275.2813580
Betfred (casino)6.52782.11361647
888 Sport1.47176.949373
888 Casino1.35161.918341
Paddy Power (sports)1.39116.348386
Paddy Power (casino)1.21145.417338
Bet365 (sports)0.1821.54145
Bet365 (casino)0.6375.634159

What is obvious is that some websites are a lot cleaner than others.  Bet365, for example, was the only website to receive a score that meant they were cleaner than the average website.  Some site, such as Betfred, were extremely energy hungry, especially the casino that used far more than any other site we tested.

Again, as with the retail energy, this doesn’t factor in the energy costs of head offices and other premises associated with running websites.  It is looking at how much the energy the data centres themselves use to deliver a website. It does not factor in how much electricity the user has to use to access the sites either.

What Is Greener Online or Land-Based Gambling?

carbon footprint

Based on those numbers we generated an average, although again this is not definitive and is only to give an idea.

If gambling websites use an average energy of 453.8 kWh per 10,000 page views then there would need to be nearly 9 billion page views to equate to the same energy used by the equivalent retail sector.

Still, 9bn page views is not 9bn people, as many people will visit a gambling site often, sometimes several times a day and may view several pages each time.  If everyone who gambles online in the UK viewed 500 pages on gambling websites each year (visiting a couple of pages on a gambling website most days, for example) this would be 18 million people.

Therefore, it is fairly safe to say that the retail sector uses more energy and therefore carbon in the UK than the online sector, but not by a massive amount.  The energy cost per head online will be much lower than offline, but with more and more people betting online and retail sectors shrinking it is likely that it will not be long in the future before online gambling has a higher energy and carbon costs compared to offline gambling.