UK Gambling Commission

UK Gambling Commission Releases Annual Gambling Study Report

The UK Gambling Commission recently published its 2016 annual report on Great Britain’s gambling participation and consumer behavior, a 42-page document developed from data gathered from approximately 3,000 combined telephone and online surveys of people 16-years old and up. Respondents were asked about where and how often they gamble, what sorts of devices they use, and their perceptions and attitudes towards gambling, amongst many other data points. On the whole, the Commission found that 48 percent of Brits gambled within the past four weeks leading up to the survey, a 3 percent increase from the previous year. That breaks a two-year trend of declining gambling participation; about 55 percent of respondents gambled in 2013.

The participation highlights shouldn’t be too terribly surprising. A higher percentage of men than women gambled last year: 53 percent to 44 percent. Aside from a bit of a drop-off at the age of 65, in general, the older people were, the more likely they were to gamble. And again, as one might guess, the National Lottery was the most popular gambling activity.

Lottery participation, though, has been declining, and if the people whose only method of gambling was the lottery, total participation in any form of gambling decreases to 33 percent for 2016. When lottery-only players are excluded, it is the young generation, the 16-34 year-olds, that have the highest gambling participation.

As for online gambling, the report shows that 17 percent of respondents had gambled over the internet in the past four weeks, an uptick from the 15 percent in 2013. 21 percent of men and just 14 percent of women gambled online. The largest increases in online gambling participation came from the youngest age groups: 16-24 year olds showed a 7 percent increase to 16 percent and 25-34 year olds had their participation increase by 5 percent to 21 percent. The highest overall participation rate, though, was by 35-44 year olds, at 22 percent.

Back to lottery, it is by far the most popular form of gambling in the UK and why wouldn’t it be? It is extraordinarily accessible, requires absolutely no skills or knowledge, and has the potential to multiply one’s investment a gajillion times over in a matter of seconds. 30 percent of gambling activity was in the National Lottery, scratch cards comprised another 12 percent, and other lottery games were at 12 percent. Thus, about half the gambling activities in 2016 were lottery-related. As mentioned, though, National Lottery activity is way down – it was at 43 percent in 2013. The doubling of the price of a lottery ticket in October 2013 may be the major factor in this decrease, according to the report.

After those, sports betting was the next most popular activity at 7 percent, up from 4 percent the year before, but the Commission attributes a portion of that increase to heavy wagering on the UEFA European Football Championship and the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The most common answer to the question of gambling frequency was once per week, with 35 percent of respondents reporting that way, a 4 percent decrease from 2015. Once a month, but less than once a week followed at 29 percent, up 5 percent, while less than once per month stayed about flat at 13 percent. 23 percent of survey takers said they gambled twice or more per week, up 1 percent from the previous year.

The survey also used the short-form Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) to come up with problem gambling-related statistics. The report warns, though, that because of the “small base sizes presented by the telephone survey, the mini-screen should not be considered the Commission’s comprehensive estimate of problem gambling rates in Great Britain.”

That said, 5.5 percent of the respondents identified as “low or moderate” risk gamblers. About twice as many men as women fell into this category and the age group with the most people identifying as “at-risk” was 25-34 year olds at 9.5 percent.

The overall number of 5.5 percent appears to be a huge leap from the 2.2 percent of the previous year, but the Commission says, “….it is important to note that due to the base sizes involved the estimates below are subject to some volatility and as such trend data should be treated with caution as none of the changes are statistically significant at the 95% level.”

As for “problem gambling,” 0.7 percent of respondents identified in that regard. Women were barely a blip on the problem gambling radar at just 0.1 percent, while 1.2 percent of men identified this way.

Finally (and there is much more in the report – we’re just hitting on some of it), survey takers were asked about their perceptions of gambling. Just 34.3 percent of those asked think gambling in the UK “is conducted fairly and can be trusted,” the fifth straight year of declining confidence in gambling operators. In 2011, nearly half of respondents answered favorably.

38.5 percent associated gambling with criminal activity, though interestingly, that number has gone down the last couple years.

On the whole, using a series of eight questions and coming up with a composite score, people have overall negative attitudes towards gambling. Using the classic “scale of 1 to 5” for the eight questions, the average total score was 21.5, on the negative side of the neutral 24. Men felt more positive about gambling than women – 22.6 to 20.6 – but this was still on the south side of neutral.


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