Based on new methodology

1.3 million people in UK could have a gambling problem, new Gambling Commission report reveals

Reading time 2:06 min

The rates of problem gambling in Great Britain are likely eight times higher than previously thought, as per new data released by the betting industry regulator.

The Gambling Commission had previously observed that the proportion of people suffering from a gambling problem may be as low as 0.3% of adults in Great Britain. The figure, according to The Guardian, was based on a telephone survey and was frequently cited by industry lobbyists as proof of the limited harm that gambling can cause. 

However, the commission has now revealed "higher-quality" figures, based on an updated methodology, that suggest that as many as 2.5% of the adult British population could be suffering from problem gambling.

This means about 1.3 million people in Great Britain struggle with their gambling. However, the commission pointed out that it is yet to come up with its own population estimate and will use a larger survey conducted over a longer period in the future.

As per the report, someone is defined as suffering from problem gambling based on the problem gambling severity index. The index tallies their answers to questions such as whether they have borrowed money or sold possessions to bet, or whether they have run into financial trouble because of gambling.

Gambling minister, Stuart Andrew

Gambling minister Stuart Andrew said: “This new survey presents a higher quality picture of gambling participation and harm than has existed previously.”

Andrew is presiding over a government review of gambling regulation, which is expected to end up in enhanced security checks for players, increased stake limits for online slot machines, and a mandatory fee on betting companies to pay for addiction treatment.

Carolyn Harris, the chair of a cross-parliamentary group of MPs examining gambling harm, said that she was not surprised at the indications of problem gambling rates being higher. “I hope the industry will take note and will be as keen to use these figures as they have been to cite those that showed lower rates of addiction,” she said.

New procedure labeled "experimental"

The commission has noted that the procedure used to calculate the new higher figure of problem gamblers was experimental. However, it said that it had refined the methodology over three stages and expects to adopt it formally next year.

The accurate approach to measuring problem gambling has been a topic of frequent debate between campaigners for reform and some industry players.

The commission’s adoption of a new, refined methodology could lead to a significant and permanent rise in the headline problem gambling rate used by the government in determining policy. The regulator has previously used telephone surveys or separate health surveys conducted by each of the UK home nations.

The survey of 4,000 people by the commission, which was conducted over two months, also found that people were more likely to gamble in the hope of making money than they are because they have fun doing it.

38% of respondents to the survey said their reason for gambling was always “the chance to win big money”, followed by “making money” as the second most common answer, with 21%. Only 16% of people said they always gambled for fun, while over 25% said they never gambled for fun. 

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