he report shows gambling in the UK is becoming more popular. If the numbers of people playing just the National Lottery are discounted, the findings showed the number of gamblers betting in other types of games had increased by 2% from 46% to 48%.
It was feared the number of problem gamblers was on the rise, but the latest figures show there are 250,000 problem gamblers in Britain - roughly the same as eight years ago.
Problem gamblers - defined as as people who gamble "to a degree that compromises, disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits" - are said to comprise 0.6% of the adult population.
Rates of problem gambling were found to be higher among men than women, and tended to be among younger age groups. The highest percentage of gamblers with a problem was found among spread betters, at 14.7%, and those using fixed odds betting terminals, at 11.2%. Of the 6% of people using gambling websites, 7.4% were classed as problem gamblers.
Everything from the National Lottery to betting shops and online gambling was covered by the British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007, the first major study of its kind in eight years. It follows the introduction of new gambling laws earlier this month which make it easier to advertise casinos and online gambling sites on television.
The study will show how the industry has grown, led by the emergence of internet sites offering poker and casino games and by touch-screen roulette machines in betting shops. Both activities are lightly regulated and have been linked to an increase in problem gambling.
A quarter of all problem gamblers who used charity Gamcare’s counseling service last year said their main mode of gambling was betting shop roulette machines. These machines, known as fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), began appearing in betting shops six years ago after the then chancellor Gordon Brown abolished betting duty. There are now 24,500 FOBT machines in UK bookmakers. More than half belong to Ladbrokes and William Hill.
Gambling Commission Chairman Peter Dean said: "It indicates that problem gambling has largely been unchanged since 1999, but we remain concerned about the upwards of a quarter of a million people whose lives are harmed by gambling."
“The challenge, for us and for the industry, is to tackle this through the new licensing regime that has been put in place from September 1. British-based gambling operators must now comply with strict and detailed social responsibility obligations, and we will monitor how these requirements are met,” he added.
Shadow Minister For Tourism, Licensing & Gambling Tobias Ellwood told Sky News Online the report’s most worrying finding was the high rate of problem gambling among the new types of gaming. "These figures are all the more alarming as it is the new forms of gambling which will now predominantly be promoted on our TV screens."
"The Government missed an opportunity by legislating before they had this evidence and by failing to create a framework in which internet gaming companies would operate under a socially responsible regime within the UK."
For a full copy of the 2007 study go to www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk