Related to: Smoking, Inequalities, Multiple Unhealthy Lifestyle Behaviours, Substance Misuse, Self-Harm, Education Absence and Exclusion

The last decade has seen many changes in the British gambling landscape. The most notable changes during this period include growth in the availability of remote gambling (particularly via the internet), the introduction of fixed odds betting terminals into most bookmakers, an increase in the number of casinos, an increase in the prominence of poker (both online and offline), and the introduction of online betting exchanges.

The most severe form of gambling, pathological or problem gambling, is recognized as a mental health disorder. Pathological gambling is currently classified as an impulse control disorder in the DSM-IV-TR, but it shares many important features with substance use disorders, especially in terms of diagnostic criteria, clinical course, and treatment.


All major current research is at national level. Where possible, local estimates have been made using local ONS population data, applied to national prevalence rates.

Key Facts

·         73% of the adult population (16+) participated in some form of gambling in the past year (2010)

·         The most popular gambling activity remains the national lottery. Excluding this the rate is 59% of adults

·         14% of adults had used the internet to gamble in the past year

·         Problem gamblers are most likely to be young, male, have parents who gambled regularly and smoke.

·         Other risk factors include unemployment, poor health, those from Black Asian and Black British backgrounds and other substance misuse.

What does the data say?

British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010 1

The BGPS 2010 is the third nationally representative survey of participation in gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling in Great Britain. It builds on the two previous surveys conducted in 1999 and 2007. The BGPS 2010 is the first survey to have been carried out since the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005 on 1 September 2007. The aims of the BGPS 2010 were to provide data on participation in all forms of gambling in Great Britain, the prevalence of problem gambling, attitudes to gambling and to explore a range of associations with gambling behaviour.

7,756 individuals participated in the survey from a random sample of 9,775 addresses from England, Scotland and Wales. Data was weighted to reflect age, sex and regional distribution of the British population from ONS estimates.

Participation in gambling activities

·        Overall, 73% of the adult population (aged 16 and over) participated in some form of gambling in the past year. This equates to around 35.5 million adults in the UK. Applied to the estimated 16+ population of B&NES (147,800) in 2012, this would amount to around 107,894 people in the authority.

·        The most popular gambling activity was the National Lottery. In 2010, 59% of adults had bought tickets for the National Lottery Draw.

·        Excluding those who had only gambled on the National Lottery Draw, 56% of adults participated in some other form of gambling in the past year. This would amount to ~60,400 people in B&NES.  

·        After the national lottery, the next most popular gambling activities are other lotteries (25%), scratchcards (24%), horserace betting (16%) and slot machines (13%).

·        The survey has noted a significant increase in betting on other events such as horse and dog racing (increased from 3% in 1999 to 9% in 2010, scratchcards (up to 24% in 2010 from 20% in 2007) and a smaller increase in online poker/bingo/casino gambling from 3% in 2007 to 5% in 2010.

·        In contrast, betting on football pools, slot machines and online bets has fallen slightly over the course of the survey.

Online/offline gambling

·        Overall, 14% of adults had used the internet to gamble in the past year, including online lottery tickets, betting, casino games, bingo, online slot machines and football pools. This would estimate to ~20,700 people in B&NES. Increases in online gambling activity have been greater in women than men.

·        Among respondents who had gambled in the past year, 81% reported that they gambled ‘in person’ only, 17% had gambled both online and in-person and only 2% had gambled ‘online only’.

·        The survey suggests that most gambling activities still occur ‘offline’, however casino games and betting on other sports events reported relatively high proportions of online activity – 39% and 27% respectively.

Profile of participants in gambling activity

·        Men were more likely than women to gamble overall (75% for men and 71% for women). Women however had higher incidence participating in bingo and scratchcards.

·        Gambling participation is associated with age – participation was lowest among the youngest and oldest age groups and highest among those aged 44-64.

·        Gambling prevalence was highest among those who were;

o   Either married or had been married (75%)

o   White/white british (76%)

o   Those whose highest qualification was GCSE’s or equivalent (76%)

o   Those in lower supervisory/technical households (79%)

o   Those in paid work (78%)

o   Those with the highest personal income

Gambling Frequency

·        59% of people who participated in the National Lottery did so once a week or more often. Only football pools had a similar level of frequency (54% once a week or more often).

·        There were five other activities which were undertaken at least once a month by half or more of all participants. These were bingo played in person (54%), casino games played on line (53%), spreadbetting (53%), fixed odd betting terminals (52%), and poker at a pub/club (50%).

·        Taking participation in all gambling activities together, past year gamblers took part in gambling, on average, on 93.6 days per year. That is, they tended to gamble more than once a week, but not quite as often as twice a week.

·        Those who gambled both online and in-person did so more than twice as often (163.3 days) as those who gambled ‘online only’ (61.5 days) or ‘in-person’ only (79.5 days).

·        Overall, 6% of regular gamblers were classified as high-time/high-spend gamblers.

·        The profile for high-time gamblers consists disproportionally of those with poorer socio-economic indicators, with National Lottery and Bingo being the most popular activities.

·        The profile for high-spend gamblers had a higher proportion of graduates, those in paid employment and a preference for betting on horse racing, slot machines and casino games.

·        When asked how their gambling involvement had changed in the past year, 4% reported an increase, 13% a decrease and 82% no change.

Problem gambling

Problem gambling, or ludomania, is an urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling often is defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler's behavior. Severe problem gambling may be diagnosed as clinical pathological gambling if the gambler meets certain criteria. Pathological gambling is a common disorder that is associated with both social and family costs. The condition is classified as an impulse control disorder, with sufferers exhibiting many similarities to those who have substance addictions.

“Problem Gambling” in the context of the BGPS means gambling to a degree that compromises, disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits.

·        Problem gambling prevalence measures using DSM-IV (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) and PGSI (problem gambling severity index) estimate problem gambling at between 0.7 and 0.9% of the adult population in 2010. This would equate roughly to between 10,300 and 13,300 problem gamblers in B&NES. (This estimate should be considered in the context of the confidence intervals of the measures – between 0.5 and 1.2%, and the inherent issues with applying national estimates at a local level).

·        Rates observed in Great Britain compared similarly to other European countries, particularly Germany, Norway and Switzerland, and lower than countries like the USA, Australia and South Africa.

·        Problem gamblers were more likely to be male, younger, have parents who gambled regularly and had experienced problems with their gambling behaviour and be current cigarette smokers. Unemployment, poor health, alcohol consumption and those from Asian/Asian British and Black/Black British backgrounds were also associated risk factors.

·        Current best estimates suggest that less than1% of those in need of treatment actually embark on a treatment programme

·       It is estimated that every problem gambler represents an annual cost to society of c£8,000. This would represent a local cost of roughly between £82m - £106m.

Young People and problem gambling 2

There are an estimated 127,500 people aged under 24 with a gambling problem in the UK. Factors linked with problem gambling in young people include; depression, anxiety, crime, suicide, alcohol and substance abuse and poor school performance.

Ipsos MORI underage gambling reports 2009 and 2012

Ipsos MORI conduct underage gambling surveys for the National Lottery Commission 3. 4 The research aims to gauge current levels of underage play, and to investigate how and where underage players buy national lottery tickets. The survey covers 16yr olds as well as younger children. The findings are based on representative samples from schools in England and Wales.

Key survey findings;

    • 18% of 11-15 year olds say they have gambled in the past week.
    • 2% were estimated to have a gambling problem, which equates to around 60,000 people aged between 12 and 15. (The British Gambling Prevalence Survey2 also found that 0.9% of 16-24 year olds had a gambling problem, which equates to 67,500 people).  
    • The proportion of 11-15 yr olds playing fruit machines and placing bets for money has fallen significantly from 2007-2012.
    • Rates of participation in online gambling are lower than rates of involvement in offline gambling, and have remained stable.
    • 13% of children say they have played free online gambling games and this is most often through Facebook.
    • 7% say they have they have some experience of playing online gambling games for money
    • The majority of young National Lottery players buy tickets when they are with parents, with parents usually handing over the money for the ticket at the till.
    • Children from single parent households and households where neither parent works were more likely to have gambled in the past week.
    • Boys were more likely to gamble and be problem gamblers than girls.
    • Asian children were no more likely to gamble than other ethnicities; however they were more likely to become problem gamblers.

Gambling and Debt 5

The first known UK research to focus exclusively on the relationship between problem gambling and overindebtedness, published in Autumn 2009, was jointly commissioned by GamCare and the Money Advice Trust from Manchester Metropolitan University. Key findings were;

·        Debts of up to £60,000 might be common amongst problem gamblers.

·        Understanding of problem gambling amongst money advice agencies and in the NHS is extremely low.

·        Awareness of the help available to problem gamblers amongst these agencies and in the NHS, particularly GPs, is equally poor.

·        There is an urgent need to improve education about gambling for young people, alongside or as part of work on financial literacy and understanding chance and risk.


What does the community say?

Voicebox resident survey 6

The large scale Voicebox Resident Survey aims to provide an insight into Bath and North East Somerset and its local communities and to capture resident’s views on their local area and council services. The questionnaires are posted to 3,150 addresses selected randomly in the local authority area. Selected respondents also have the opportunity to complete the survey online.  Responses were weighted by age and gender.

In the 2014 survey, 2 questions about gambling behaviour were included  - 1)Do you gamble? And 2) How often do you gamble? The second question asked respondents to indicate their gamblineg frequency by type of gambling (i.e spread betting, football pools, poker, casino games etc.)

Q1: Do you gamble?

Figure 1: responses to the question ‘do you gamble?’ – 896 responses were received to this question

  • Two-thirds (66%) of respondents said that they never gambled

  • 27% said they gamble ‘offline’

  • 14% said they gamble ‘online’

Q2: How often do you gamble?

Respondents who indicated that they do gamble either online or offline were then asked to indicated how often they gamble, against a range of gambling activities

Figure 2: Self-reported gambling frequency by activity for those respondents who indicated that they gamble either online or offline.

  • The National Lottery was the most common form of gambling with 37% of those who responded indicating they play it at least once a week, with a further 19% playing once or twice a month

  • 11% of respondents also outlined they played scratch cards at least once or twice a month
  • 20% of respondents said they bet on dog or horse races about once or twice a year