Gambling in Adults

Updated: Apr 14


Gambling in Adults
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Executive Summary

  • The last well-designed gambling prevalence survey in Great Britain, BGPS 2010, found that approximately 8.5% of adults (4.56 million individuals using a 2020 population estimate) were vulnerable gamblers in the past 12 months

Using a 2020 population estimate of 53.6 million individuals that are 16 and over, we estimate that in this population, there are:

  • 643, 000 problem gamblers (1.2%)

  • 965, 000 moderate-risk harm gamblers (1.8%)

  • 2,950, 000 low-risk harm gamblers (5.5%)

  • A total of 4.56 million 16+-year-old gamblers are estimated to suffer significant gambling harm in the past 12 months.

Gambling-specific prevalence surveys in 2007 and 2010 reported concordant results for low-risk, moderate-risk, and problem-gambling harm.

  • 2007: 5.1% + 1.4% + 0.8% = 7.3%

  • 2010: 5.5% + 1.8% + 1.2% = 8.5%

Gambling-specific online studies reported a higher rate of gambling-harm prevalence than gambling-specific offline studies. However, the online studies were conducted several years and over a time of gambling industry growth.

  • 2016, a YouGov study on 16-34-year old's: 9.0% + 4.0% + 5.0% = 18.0% (BGPS 2010 estimate for this population: 14.8%)

  • 2019, a nationally representative YouGov study: 7.2% + 3.3% + 2.7% = 13.2%

  • 2020, a nationally representative YouGov follow-up study: 7.0% + 2.8% + 2.6% = 12.4%

Background

This is the first review to collect, collate, and concisely analyse the evidence on the prevalence of gambling harm in adults in GB. The last well-designed gambling prevalence survey in Great Britain, BGPS 2010, found that 8.5% of adults (4.2 million individuals) were vulnerable gamblers.


The prevalence of harm in gamblers was reported at the peak of 8.5% in 2010, at the lowest level of 4.0% in 2018, and an all-time high at 13.2% in 2019. From 2010 to 2019, the value of gambling losses grew by 37% (after adjusting for inflation) despite studies reflecting fewer people gambling.


Results

From 2010 to 2019, the gross gambling yield excluding lotteries has grown by 57%, from £6.8bn to a value of £10.7bn, due to rapid advances in game addictiveness, ad penetration accessibility of online gambling products. Over the same period, the overall gross gambling yield (including lotteries) has grown by 37%, from £10.5bn to £14.3bn.

In 2007, the BGPS 2007 and APMS 2007 measured gambling-harm prevalence at 7.3% and 3.2%, respectively. There was a large difference (4.1%) in the measured prevalence of gambling harm, and this is due to the different study designs employed.


Between health-oriented surveys from 2007 to 2018, the prevalence of gambling harm ranged between 3.2% - 4.9% (range: 1.7%)


Gambling-specific prevalence surveys in 2007 and 2010 reported concordant results for low-risk, moderate-risk, and problem-gambling harm.

  • 2007: 5.1% + 1.4% + 0.8% = 7.3%

  • 2010: 5.5% + 1.8% + 1.2% = 8.5%

Gambling-specific online studies reported a higher rate of gambling-harm prevalence than gambling-specific offline studies. However, the online studies were conducted several years and over a time of gambling industry growth.

  • In 2016, a YouGov study on 16-34-year olds reported a prevalence of gambling-harm at 18.0%, up by 3.2% from 14.8% (an increase of 21.6%), which is an estimate generated using data from BGPS 2010. Overall industry GGY growth = 38.5% over the same period)

  • In 2019, a nationally representative YouGov study (n=12,161) reported a peak prevalence of gambling-harm at 13.2%, up by 4.7% from 8.5% (increase of 55.3%), when compared to the last gambling-specific national study (BGPS 2010). 7.2% low-risk harm + 3.3% moderate-risk harm + 2.7% problem-gambler harm = 13.2%. Overall industry GGY growth = 31.2% over the same period)

  • In 2020, a nationally representative YouGov follow-up study (n=9,067) reported a prevalence of gambling-harm at 12% (6% low-risk harm, 3% moderate-risk harm, 2% problem gambling-harm)

Population estimate using the last well-designed prevalence study

Overall adult population estimate (16+)

  • 2010: 80.95% * 61.0 million = 49.4 million

  • 2020: 81.15% * 66.1 million = 53.6 million

  • 2010: 4.20 million individuals affected

  • 2020: 4.56 million individuals affected

Attitudes


Meanwhile, the percentage of adults who think gambling is fair has fallen from 48% to an all-time low of 29%.

  • 8 in 10 adults think that there are too many opportunities for gambling nowadays

  • 2 in 3 adults think that gambling is dangerous for family life

  • 1 in 2 adults think gambling should be discouraged

  • 1 in 3 gamblers agree that gambling is conducted fairly and can be trusted

  • 1 in 4 non-gamblers agree that gambling is conducted fairly and can be trusted

  • 1 in 3 adults think that gambling should be banned altogether

  • 1 in 9 adults think that, on balance, gambling is good for society

Discussion

Key limitations of prevalence study designs

Causes of overestimate

  • Prevalence studies use a lower DSM-IV cut off of 3 instead of the clinically used cut off of 4

  • Prevalence of problem gambler harm is measured by combining results from the PGSI (0.7%) or DSM-IV (0.9%) screens. Prevalence of low-risk and moderate-risk harm is measured with the PGSI screen only. Hence, there is potential for an overestimate of prevalence of moderate-risk and low-risk harm by up to 0.5%, as some individuals may be stratified into two groups, for example, an individual may have a score of problem gambler harm in the DSM-IV screen and as low-risk harm by the PGSI screen.

  • Online non-probability studies may be more impacted by reporting bias through careless responses.

Causes of underestimate

  • Significant self-reporting issues impact studies include preoccupation, shame, stigma, lack of awareness, reliability of memory, social desirability, and the honesty of the responses given.

  • Studies with a health orientation are ineffective at capturing gambling-harm populations but instead have a bias for capturing healthy populations.

  • 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

  • Studies are severely limited in scope as they do not measure the prevalence of affected others and former gamblers (lifetime gambling)

Other gambling prevalence surveys in the UK

Past year problem gambling

  • Across the world: 0.12% – 5.80%

  • Across Europe: 0.12% – 3.40%

  • In Great Britain: 0.50% – 2.70%

Lifetime problem gambling

Across Europe: 0.70% – 6.50%

  • Studies in Europe reflect that there may be just as many former problem gamblers as active problem gamblers.

  • Studies in Great Britain have never measured the prevalence of lifetime problem gambling.

Gambling Commission Prevalence Study Funding

Despite concordant past year gambling-harm prevalence of 7.3% and 8.5% in 2007 and 2010, funding for research was dramatically cut from 2010 till 2015.


Conclusion

  • The last well-designed gambling prevalence survey in Great Britain, BGPS 2010, found that approximately 8.5% of adults (4.56 million individuals using a 2020 population estimate) were vulnerable gamblers in the past 12 months.

  • From 2010 to 2019, the gross gambling yield excluding lotteries has grown by 51% to a value of £10.7bn, due to rapid game addictiveness, ad penetration, and accessibility of online gambling products.

  • Meanwhile, the percentage of adults who think gambling is fair has fallen from 48% to an all-time low of 29%

Appendix

Define vulnerable person

The Commission does not seek to define ‘vulnerable persons,’ but it does, for regulatory purposes, assume that this group includes:

  • people who gamble more than they want to,

  • people who gamble beyond their means and,

  • people who may not be able to make informed or balanced decisions about gambling due to, for example, mental health, a learning disability, or substance misuse relating to alcohol or drugs

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