GambleAware has warned that an estimated 1.4 million adults are currently experiencing gambling harms, as participation in gambling returns to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.
The research, education and treatment (RET) charity has published new data gathered from its “Annual GB Treatment and Support Survey for 2021” which was carried out by YouGov.
Since 2019, GambleAware has commissioned YouGov to study the usage and demand of treatment support services available to gamblers in order to provide feedback for the National Gambling Treatment Service (NGTS).
The 2021 study consisted of an online quantitative survey of 18,038 adults. In addition, a qualitative survey was carried out, comprising 30 telephone interviews. The standardised method of Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) was applied to measure gambling risks combined with the UK Census on public ethnicity classifications.
The results from the survey suggest, in GambleAware’s view, that the extent of problem gambling and the impact this has on wider society is more prevalent than has been interpreted by other sources.
In particular, 12.7% of adults who responded to the study scored 1+ on the PGSI scale, an increase on the 11.8% reported in 2020. The study found that men were more likely to suffer from gambling-related harm, a similar trend observed in previous studies.
GambleAware reported that the PGSI +8 index had significantly increased within the male 18-to-34 category, with 7.1% of respondents falling into this category. This was a rise on the 4.6% reported in 2020.
The number of “affected others” was also significantly higher, with up to 6% of the adult population categorising themselves in this bracket – the equivalent of around 3.3 million.
The charity has stated that these findings represent a reversal on those from 2020 when there was a decline in the overall number of people gambling. However, it identified an overall increase in National Lottery participation as well as sports wagering, which has been attributed to the major sporting events taking place over the past year.
The 2021 survey results indicated a rise in participants seeking PGSI +8 problem gambling treatment – feedback that GambleAware estimates could represent more than 1.4 million adults requiring critical intervention, assuming this data is representative of the wider UK population.
Individuals from BAME communities were less likely to gamble in comparison to the white population. However the study highlighted that those from a BAME background who did bet faced a disproportionately high rate of gambling-related harm.
Overall, the survey identified 7% of adults as low-risk gamblers with a PGSI score of 1-2. 2.9% of respondents were categorised as moderate-risk with a score of 3-7 while 2.8% of gamblers were within the problem gambling category.
Despite this increase in gambling participation, and by extension problem gambling, the organisation noted that there are still a number of barriers to treatment that need to be addressed, most notably stigma and denial.
“Despite impacting a significant number of people, gambling harms are often poorly understood and under-reported,” remarked GambleAware advisor Dr Hilary Jones MBE.
“This is because the impact harmful gambling can have on people’s lives is incredibly varied, complex, and too often hidden. Being one of the estimated 1.4 million experiencing harms from gambling could mean you may be struggling with a number of consequences which go far beyond just financial debt and could include both mental and physical health.”
The charity did acknowledge, however, that those suffering from problem gambling or at a higher risk of harm were more likely to utilise treatment. 15% of moderate-risk gamblers and 64% of problem gamblers reported using these services in the previous 12 months.
Although just 4% of low-risk gamblers had undergone treatment, this was something which GambleAware stated “is to be expected” from those in this category, as these bettors are likely to “experience no negative consequences from their gambling”.
In response to the study, GambleAware has proposed that further communications are required to better inform people of the risks associated with problem gambling and the treatment services available.
GambleAware has also pledged to update its nationwide campaign promoting the National Gambling Treatment Service to the public – in which it continues to target the high-risk demographic of male audiences.
Zoë Osmond, CEO of GambleAware, said: “For many years, the National Gambling Treatment Service has been working in partnership with the NHS and other organisations to provide free, confidential support that is effective and easy to access.
“While we’re proud to have enabled over 200,000 people over the past six years to get the help they need, we know there are many more out there who also need help. Our message to anyone struggling or worried about their loved ones is that you are not alone.”
NB – Industry trade body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has issued a response to GambleAware’s findings, stating that it did not recognise the figures quoted by the RET charity, which are not supported by the UK Gambling Commission’s most recent analysis of UK problem gambling rates.
We do not recognise the figures quoted today by @GambleAware which are not supported by the most recent research from @GamRegGB which show problem gambling rates remained stable at 0.3% in 2021 and have halved over the past 18 months.
— Betting and Gaming Council (@BetGameCouncil) March 23, 2022