There are more than 250,000 problem gamblers in Britain, according to
research published today. The figure represents around 0.6% of the adult
population, the same proportion identified in the last major gambling study
eight years ago.
The Gambling Commission report found that around 32 million
people - 68% of adults - took part in some form of gambling in the past year.
This compared with 33 million people - 72% of adults - in the 1999 survey.
The fall was largely due to fewer people buying National Lottery
tickets. Although the lottery remains the most popular gambling activity, the
proportion of people taking part has fallen from 65% in 1999 to 57% this
Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007
The other most popular
gambling activities were scratchcards, bought by 20% of adults, betting on
horse races (17%), and playing slot machines (14%). Other gambling included
playing bingo (7%), internet gambling (6%), betting on dog races (5%), betting
in a casino (4%), and using fixed-odds betting terminals (3%).
Gambling Commission chairman, Peter Dean, said: "The key message is that
overall there has been surprisingly little change either in the number of
gambling participants or to the number of problem gamblers since 1999.
"We remain concerned that there are still over a quarter of a million
adults who are problem gamblers."
One of the report's authors, Mark
Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, warned
that the number of problem gamblers could still rise due to the Gambling Act
2005, which came into effect this month.
The legislation gives casinos
and online-gambling sites greater freedom to advertise, which Prof Griffiths
said would "stimulate people to gamble".
The static level of problem
gambling appears at odds with the number of calls taken by the charity GamCare,
which helps individuals in difficulty from gambling or their friends and
GamCare registered more than 30,000 calls to its helpline
last year, a rise of 33.9% on 2005. The charity predicts it will take 40,000
calls this year.
Anthony Jennens, the GamCare chairman, said: "All
surveys are more or less accurate but to suggest that this captures everyone is
ridiculous. Many are gambling on overseas websites, so I'm not sure how you'd
assess their numbers."
Gambling is seen as problematic when it is
harmful to a person's family or personal life. Symptoms include chasing losses,
using gambling as a form of escapism, and being unable to cut back on the
amount of gambling.
The rate of problem gambling in Britain is higher
than in Norway; similar to that of Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland;
but lower than in Australia, South Africa, the US, Singapore, and Hong Kong,
the commission says.