16-24 group labeled the most vulnerable

UKGC's data shows problem gambling at historically low 0.2% in H1; BGC praises figures but warns about reforms

BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher.
Reading time 3:01 min

The UK Gambling Commission has released new figures showing the rates of problem gambling have remained historically low at 0.2% in the first half of the year 2022. The results were praised by industry body Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which argues they are evidence of "the positive progress" companies have made on the issue. However, data shows the 16-24 age group remains the most vulnerable at a higher rate.

The latest statistics showed the rate of problem gambling in the year to June 2022 was down from 0.4% in 2021, and remained the same as the last published annualized figures in April 2022. The rate of problem gambling among women has stayed steady at a low 0.1%. These rates are low by international standards, the BGC claims.

These figures come less than a month since Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his gambling minister resigned their roles amid a time of much discussion about the forthcoming white paper, which BGC says the industry has long campaigned for and supported.

"It is essential that we do not do anything that inadvertently drives any of the 22.5 million regular punters away from the regulated industry and into the arms of the unsafe, unregulated and growing gambling black market online," the BGC has warned. "Most problem gamblers do not suffer from addiction, gambling addiction requires a clinical assessment. The two are often conflated, but they are entirely different."

BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: These newly released figures are yet again further evidence of the positive progress we have made on problem gambling, which is low by international standards and has fallen in recent times, thanks to the many initiatives we have taken including using advertising to promote safer gambling tools like deposit limits and time-outs, as well as other changes we have made to further raise standards."

Results were gathered from the Commission’s quarterly survey, based on a sample of 4,018 applicants. General trends for the year to June 2022 reflected that overall participation in any gambling activity remained statistically stable at 43%.

A breakdown of problem gambling participation indicated a 0.3% and 0.1% split between males and females. The survey also showed that participants aged 16-24 are the most vulnerable group with 0.8%, and except for that range, data reflected that year-on-year problem gambling rates have declined across all age groups.

As for general moderate risk rates, the survey indicated a decline from 1.5% in 2021 to 1% for the first half of this year. But as with problem gambling rates, this category registered a significant rise from 0.6% to 3.6% in participants within the 16-24 range.

Around 22.5 million adults in the UK bet each month, and Dugher remarks that it is "clear once again that the overwhelming majority do so perfectly safely and responsibly." Despite this progress, the BGC Chief Executive said there is "no room for complacency," with companies ramping up efforts across the regulated industry to combat problem gaming, in contrast to what he labeled as a "growing" online black market.

The latest problem gambling figures will come as a blow to anti-gambling prohibitionists who like to vastly overstate the issues to suit their efforts to treat gambling like tobacco, not like alcohol, but it also provides food for thought for new ministers considering a white paper this autumn," Dugher argued.

While Dugher said the industry body looks forward to the white paper as an opportunity to drive further changes, he warned the new government "should be guided by evidence and seek to carefully target future measures on problem gamblers and those at risk", instead of intruding "on the perfectly safe enjoyment of millions of punters."

Following the UK's PM resignation, proposals to reform gambling laws have been once again postponed. This is the fourth time the amendment gets pushed back. The White Paper is the culmination of a review announced in 2019.

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