UK Problem Gambling Rate Drops Year on Year

UK Problem Gambling Rate Drops Year on Year

Data from the UKGC released this week confirms a drop in problem gambling rates in the UK to 0.2% of the population, down from 0.3% in previous years.

The latest round of statistics on player participation and problem gambling from the UK Gambling Commission has revealed falling rates of problem gambling for the year until December 2022.

Around 22.5 million adults bet monthly in the UK, and the industry had a gross gambling yield of £14.08 billion British pounds from April 2021 to March 2022. For the year through to December 2022, problem gambling rates dropped from 0.3% in 2021 to 0.2% in 2022. The number of players categorised as low risk remained stable at 1.7%; however, those at medium risk increased from 0.8% in 2021 to 1.3% in 2022.

Proponents of fewer gambling restrictions will celebrate the new data. It adds renewed weight to the argument that the new regulations expected in the forthcoming white paper (part of the Government’s update of the 2005 Gambling Act) are not warranted.

The Betting and Gaming Council, which is made up of 90% of the UK gambling operators, has been particularly vocal on this point, commissioning studies and YouGov Polls showing that bettors would leave the legal market should stronger regulations be brought in and that the growth of the gambling black market in Europe and the UK has corresponded with increasing regulations, such as stake limits on slots, affordability checks and per player budgets. In the case of the UK, customers using offshore betting sites have doubled from 210,000 bettors in 2019 to 460,000 in 2020.

Michael Druger, BGC Chief Executive, said of the news in a BGC press release:

“These newly released figures are further evidence of our positive progress on safer gambling and underline our urgent calls for ministers to take a genuinely evidence-based approach to the upcoming white paper.

These figures showing that problem gambling has fallen once again will undoubtedly be a profound disappointment to anti-gambling prohibitionists, who like to overstate the issue vastly.

Their alarmist demands are not backed up by evidence. We want big changes, but they must be focused on this small minority who are vulnerable to harm – not the vast majority who bet safely and responsibly. We need a risk-based approach which helps the vulnerable, not ruins the experience for the responsible majority.

The regulated betting and gaming industry is determined to promote safer gambling, unlike the unsafe, unregulated and growing online black market, which has none of the safeguards which are the norm among BGC members.

Ministers should not drive customers into the arms of the black market by introducing blanket low-level intrusive affordability checks for all punters but rather use technology to target those at risk.”

However, these figures are not isolated. Some of the UK’s biggest operators have attempted to get ahead of the white paper by inputting early forms of player budgets in 2022. Thus, it could be argued the drop in problem gambling rates has been the greater awareness and actions that the upcoming gambling review has caused, alongside continual regulatory efforts from the UKGC.

Additionally, the rise in medium-risk players is concerning and will bolster regulatory efforts to protect players. The UKGC has already responded to industry calls for an evidence-led approach (which suggests there isn’t enough evidence for the measures being considered in the government’s Gambling Review), stating that they do not accept the argument that a potential increase in offshore gaming or the fear of an increase should prevent them from regulating to protecting players, as this not revenue concerns, is their first duty.

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