New Data Reveals Alarming Rise in UK Problem Gambling Rates

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Recent data released by the UK's Gambling Commission (UKGC) has sent shockwaves through the betting industry, suggesting that problem gambling rates could be significantly higher than previously estimated.

The commission's previous estimate of problem gambling prevalence was as low as 0.3% of adults in Great Britain, based on a telephone survey. This figure had been used by betting industry lobbyists to downplay the extent of harm associated with gambling.

Higher Problem Gambling Rates in the UK Revealed

UKGC has now published "higher quality" figures, using an updated methodology, indicating that as many as 2.5% of the adult British population may be suffering from problem gambling. This new estimate would translate to approximately 1.3 million people in Great Britain dealing with gambling-related problems. The commission is planning to conduct a larger survey over a longer period to refine this estimate further.

Gambling issues are determined based on the problem gambling severity index, which considers factors like borrowing money or selling possessions to gamble and experiencing financial difficulties due to gambling.

The UK's gambling minister, Stuart Andrew, described the new survey as offering a "higher quality picture of gambling participation and harm." This revelation comes amid a government review of gambling regulation expected to introduce stricter player protection measures, stake limits for online slot machines, and a mandatory levy on betting companies to fund addiction treatment.

Carolyn Harris, chair of a cross-parliamentary group of MPs examining gambling harm, expressed that the indications of higher problem gambling rates were not surprising and urged the industry to take these figures seriously.

The Gambling Commission admitted that the procedure used to calculate the higher figure was "experimental" but noted that it had refined the methodology over three stages and intends to formally adopt it next year. This shift in methodology could lead to a significant and permanent increase in the official problem gambling rate used to shape government policy.

New Methodology Sparks Controversy

Measuring problem gambling accurately has long been a contentious issue between reform advocates and some segments of the iGaming industry. The commission's adoption of a new methodology could reshape the industry's regulatory landscape.

Additionally, the survey found that people were more likely to gamble for the chance to win big money rather than for fun. About 38% of respondents cited "the chance to win big money" as their primary reason for gambling, while 21% mentioned "making money." Only 16% indicated that they always gambled for fun, while more than a quarter said fun was never their motivation for gambling.

The Betting & Gaming Council, an industry standards body, expressed reservations about the new figures, labeling them as "experimental" and pointed to a previous NHS survey that estimated problem gambling rates at 0.4%. The council emphasized that the methodology used in the recent survey differed from previous ones conducted by the Gambling Commission, hence the variance in rates.