The sources of problem gambling in the UK may surprise some

  • Gambling Commission report finds that 1.4% of gamblers can be classed as problem gamblers
  • Spread-betting and betting exchanges revealed to have the highest rates of problem gambling

A comprehensive report on problem gambling in the UK has thrown up some surprising results.

FOBTs report is slammed by government watchdog
Fixed odds betting terminals are a source of problem gambling, but do not show the highest rates, according to a new study

The headline figure in the data commissioned by the UK Gambling Commission has found that over two million people in the UK can be classed as at-risk or problem gamblers.

But sources of problem gambling will perhaps surprise some people – with spread betting and betting exchanges seen as having the highest rates of harm for bettors.

The report, which is the first of its kind to be released since 2010, drew on evidence from a number of UK surveys to build a clear picture of the extent of gambling throughout the UK, based on surveys from 2015.

It found that 1.4% of gamblers (0.8% of the UK population) could be described as problem gamblers with 6.4% of gamblers falling into the at-risk category.

Gambling-related harm

Based on the report, the typical problem gambler is an economically inactive (but not unemployed or retired) man aged between 24 and 35, who participates in seven or more different gambling activities over the course of a year.

One surprising finding from the report is that fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which have been the subject of much criticism in recent months, do not appear to attract the highest rates of problem gambling.

While the volume of money lost on FOBTs in the UK is considerable, the much-scrutinised machines are fifth in the list of rates of of problem gambling.

According to the report, the highest rates of problem gambling occur among those who take part in spread betting (20.1%), while betting exchanges (16.2%), playing poker in pubs and clubs (15.9%) and non-sports related offline betting (15.5%). They all recorded problem gambling rates higher than FOBTs (11.5%).

However, many people use FOBTs than, for example, partake in spread betting, so the volume of problem gambling for FOBTs will be higher.

Speaking about the report’s findings, the executive director of the UK Gambling Commission, Tim Miller, called for a new focus on gambling-related harm:

“For many, gambling is an enjoyable leisure activity. But for some people gambling can become a problem with serious consequences for them, their families and their communities.”

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