New Research Shows Problem Gambling Rate in the UK Continues To Drop

There’s new evidence to indicate that the UK and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) might be allocating too many resources to an issue that doesn’t need so much attention. The gaming regulator’s latest data shows that the problem gambling rate in the UK remains at around 0.2%.

The UK flag flies in front of Big Ben
The UK flag flies in front of Big Ben. The UK’s problem gambling rate remains at an all-time low, despite calls for a stricter industry. (Image: Canva)

Previous studies the UKGC and other entities have conducted show that problem gaming among British adults has dropped over the past couple of years. Where it hovered around 0.4% 18 months ago, the rate has steadily held at its current level since then.

The UKGC asserts that the rate remains low because of its efforts to regulate the market even more, not because of the proactive initiatives the operators take. At the same time, it wants more restrictive measures, despite the existing evidence that what has been in place is apparently working.

UK Problem Gambling Remains Imperceptible

Depending on the source of the study, the problem gambling rate among UK adults has consistently been around 0.2% – 0.3% for the past 12 months. The latest study by the UKGC, as the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) highlighted in a report this week, puts it squarely at 0.2%.

By any estimation, that level makes “problem gambling” non-existent; reaching zero is an impossibility and a task not worth undertaking. There’s no consumer area that has zero problems, and those that have tried have only increased the activity and prices in the underground markets.

Those assertions have a foundation in research. Several studies have found an increase of 100% in the use of unlicensed gaming sites, according to the BGC, as the UKGC continues to take a stricter approach in the name of responsible gambling.

These figures showing that problem gambling has fallen once again will no doubt come as a profound disappointment to anti-gambling prohibitionists, who like to vastly overstate the issue,” said BGC CEO Michael Dugher.

The BGC added in its report that around 22.5 million people in the UK – almost half – place some type of bet each month. This could be buying a lottery ticket, playing in a casino, betting on a sports event, etc. At the same time, the figure represents a modest uptick in activity, but with no corresponding increase in problem gambling.

At a time when the UK economy can’t afford to incur any losses, pushing the regulated gaming market offshore isn’t beneficial. The industry provides around 111,000 jobs and £7.1 billion (US$8.57 billion) to the economy, and any loss of either would have a significant impact.

There have already been changes because of inflation and consumer perception of the government. The UKGC recently reported that gambling revenue dropped by 8%, despite a 17% increase in the number of bets placed and an increase of three million in the number of registered accounts.

Gambling White Paper In Limbo

The UK government’s biggest gambling reforms are coming via a new white paper, which has already faced a number of delays. A recent reshuffle of parliamentarians by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak put the projected release in doubt once again.

It’s still unclear what the new regulations will cover. However, mandatory affordability checks, reduced advertising, new staking limits and sponsorship bans are among the most likely topics.

Even after the white paper finally makes its debut, there will still be more work to come. There will have to be industry discussions, consultations and more to determine how operators and industry players have to implement any changes.

It’s possible that the white paper could arrive before the end of this month. However, a gambling man probably wouldn’t bet on it.

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