Gambling Act Review: are they even asking the right questions?

Updated: Apr 15

In 2018, the Gambling Commission reported that gambling-harm has “received remarkably little attention relative to other population-level concerns.” They said that “simply counting the number of problem gamblers is likely to underestimate the true extent of gambling-related harm.” However, politicians, former politicians, and industry magnates continue to reflect on gambling harm as only affecting a small minority of 0.7% or just under 400, 000 British Adults.

To make clear, this estimate of “problem gamblers” represents the number of individuals suffering the most severe form of gambling harm from their gambling.

Why is this an equality and diversity issue?

  • Problem gambling harm is more prevalent amongst BAME communities (approximately 1 in 17 BAME gamblers) (odds ratio of around 3 relative to white ethnic groups)

  • Gambling harm is more likely to affect non-gamblers if they are from BAME communities (9% of BAME adults reported experiencing harm from someone else's gambling versus 7% in white ethnicity adults)

  • Betting shops in England and Wales are in postcode districts where the population is disproportionately composed of individuals from BAME ethnicity groups.

What about harm in low-risk and moderate-risk gamblers?

Studies in New Zealand and Victoria (Australia) have provided evidence that there is considerably more harm in gamblers from low-risk and moderate-risk harm gambling than those suffering “problem gambling” harm due to the relative size of the populations.

What about harm in non-gamblers (affected others)?

Furthegambling-act-review-are-we-even-asking-the-right-questionsrmore, the Gambling Commission also reported that “the numbers of those who experience harm as a result of gambling by others will be considerably greater than the number of people who harm themselves.”

  • Two studies have measured the prevalence of adult affected others at 7% and 6%

  • In stark contrast with expectations, the same studies reported twice as many people affected by gambling harm from their own gambling than as affected others.

What about harm in children?

Among 11-16-year-olds:

  • 1 in 20 suffer gambling harm due to their own gambling in the past year (4.4%, 142, 000 individuals)

  • 1 in 60 suffer from the most severe form of gambling harm (1.7%, 55, 000 individuals)

  • According to a recent YouGov study, approximately half of all those suffering problem-gambler harms from own gambling have a child (under 18) living in the same household

  • There is no other evidence quantifying prevalence or severity of harms in affected others that are under 16 years old

What about legacy harm?

  • Despite the potential for gambling harm to persist through debt, crime, and consequences due to health effects, the prevalence of lifetime gambling harm has never been mentioned in the UK.

  • Studies in mainland Europe have demonstrated that generally, there are twice as many individuals who have suffered 'problem gambler' harm in their lifetime in the population when compared to the number affected in the past year.


  • Gambling harm is estimated to be the largest modifiable risk-factor in loss of healthy life in the GB population (this does not include harm in child gamblers, a child affected others, and legacy-harms

  • Gambling harm affected more than 1 in 10 adults in GB in the past year

What do the latest studies show?

Depending on the choice of study design, between 4.0% and 13.2% of adults suffer significant harm (own gambling) in the past 12 months. These results do not measure the effects of legacy harm of former gamblers and former affected others, nor gambling-harm in those under 16 years old.

Online Study 2020

  • 12.4% = 7.0% + 2.8% + 2.6%

& 6% of adults suffer significant gambling-harm due to somebody else’s gambling

  • 2019 Online Study results: 13.2% = 7.2% + 3.3 + 2.7%

& 7% affected others

The British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010 (Gold-standard)

  • 8.5% = 5.5% of adults suffer LR harm + 1.8% MR harm + 1.2% PG harm

  • British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 (Gold-standard): 7.3%: 5.1% + 1.4% + 0.8%

  • In 2007, a gambling-prevalence survey and a health-oriented survey measured gambling-harm at 7.3% and 3.2%, respectively

Health Survey England 2018

  • 4.0% = 2.7% + 0.8% + 0.5%

  • Between health-oriented surveys from 2007 to 2018, the prevalence of gambling harm in the past 12 months ranged between 3.2% - 4.9%

  • A study in Canada provided limited. but the only evidence that studies with a health orientation are ineffective at capturing gambling-harm populations

Telephone survey 2019

  • 4.5% = 2.7% + 1.2% + 0.6%

How are the surveys limited in estimating gambling harm?

  • Primarily, surveys are limited in scope because they omit critical and holistic consideration of gambling-harm

  • Prevalence surveys are impacted by sampling and self-reporting biases caused by preoccupation, emotional and psychological factors, reliability of memory, and social desirability.

  • Studies that select only individuals living in private households (all non-online studies) exclude groups of people who are more likely to be vulnerable gamblers, such as the homeless, those living in temporary accommodation, or correctional facilities.


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