An NHS report into the prevalence of gambling participation, behaviour and problem gambling in UK society has been released, amid continued discussion around the sector’s regulatory future.
At a time when the extent of problem gambling in the UK has been a major talking point around the publication of the Gambling Act review White Paper, the NHS stats have drawn some parallels with those of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
According to the health service, 0.3% of the UK population can be considered to be ‘engaging in problem gambling’ according to their Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) scores, with 2.8% people identified as ‘engaging in at-risk’ gambling.
The latest statistics from the UKGC’s quarterly telephone survey meanwhile, put the nation’s problem gambling rate at 0.2% as of February 2023, down from 0.3% the previous quarter.
It is worth noting that the PGSI offers a very wide range of samples and responses, however. Answering ‘yes’ all eight of the questions asked results in a respondent being classified as problem gambling, whilst answering just one or more leads to an ‘at-risk’ classification.
The NHS figures further assert that those who spent money on four or more types of gambling over the preceding 12 months were ‘more likely to engage in at-risk or problem gambling’ at 27.8% than those who participated in two or three types or just one, at 4.6% and 1.6% respectively.
In its examination of gambling activity over the previous 12 months, the NHS found that 50% of people aged 16 and over had participated ‘in some form of gambling’, with National Lottery draws being the leading product.
These draws account for 34% of respondent gambling activity in the previous 12 months, with a further 15% purchasing tickets for ‘other lotteries’ such as society lotteries and a further 14% buying scratchcards.
However, 36% had participated in another form of gambling other than the lottery. Looking at wagering, 8% bet on sports via an online bookmaker and 5% placed a stake on horse racing either at a betting shop, by phone or at a racecourse.
All other gambling activity – encompassing land-based casinos, online casino, slots and poker, etc – had participation rates below 5%, with 10% of adults participating in some form of online gambling in the previous 12 months.
The figures did draw some parallels between use of non-lottery products and increased levels of problem gambling, noting that 7.9% of individuals who gambled on any gambling activity apart from the National Lottery were identified as engaging in at-risk or problem gambling.
The NHS report continued: “The prevalence of at-risk and problem gambling was higher still amongst gamblers who gambled online. 18.2% of individuals who participated in online gambling activities were identified as engaging in at-risk or problem gambling.”
Lastly, the report also examined differences in problem gambling and participation according to age, sex and geographical location, finding that men were more likely to gamble at 55% against 45%.
Regionally, North East England had the highest proportion of adults who gambled at 59%, whilst the South West had the lowest at 41%.
On age demographics, the NHS survey contends that gambling participation increased as age increased, with 61% in the 45-54 bracket betting, although this fell to 45% in those aged 75 or over.
Following a long-running debate throughout the course of the Gambling Act review around the prevalence of gambling among young people, the NHS study found that 39% of those between 16 and 34 participated in the activity.
This will continue to provide some cause for concern, however, as 16 and 17 year-olds were included in the survey, and all betting products in the UK are subject to 18 and above age restrictions.
With the DCMS White Paper on the Gambling Act review now published, but with further consultations apparently due with stakeholders and its proposals not yet final, it is unclear whether these statistics will influence future policy making.