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GC survey confirms worsening public perception of gambling

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Negative attitudes towards gambling in Great Britain are increasingly prevalent, according to the Gambling Commission's Behaviour, Awareness and Attitudes Report, with 29% of those surveyed now calling for a total ban.

Negative attitudes towards gambling in Great Britain are increasingly prevalent, according to the Gambling Commission's Behaviour, Awareness and Attitudes Report, with 29% of those surveyed now calling for a total ban.

The report, which also found that the number of total gamblers remains steady despite growing online and mobile participation, was based on a telephone survey of 4,003 people conducted in December 2019. 

This found that 29% of people agreed that it would be better if gambling was banned altogether, up from 25% in December 2018. Respondents were also overwhelmingly of the opinion that there are too many opportunities to gamble today, with 82% saying this was the case.

A variety of other questions further highlighted the negative perception of the industry. The survey found that 73% believe gambling is dangerous for family life – up from 71% in 2018 – while 62% said that gambling should be discouraged.

Support for the industry appeared to be falling away, with respondents that said people should have the right to gamble whenever they want, falling from 62% to 60%. Those said that gambling “livens up life” fell to 26%, while those that felt gambling is good for society declined to 13%.


Only 29% agreed with the statement “gambling is fair and can be trusted”, though this was higher among gamblers – 32% of players claimed it was fair, compared to 25% of non-players. 


Despite the increasingly negative attitudes, participation rates appear to be holding steady. Respondents were quizzed on whether they gambled in the past four weeks, with 47% saying they did so, a slight increase from December last year. However, this figure includes National Lottery participation. When this is taken out, it falls to 32%. 

Gambling is still a male-dominated pursuit, with men making up 51% of participants, compared to 43% of females surveyed. 

There was evidence that gambling participation was growing among younger demographics. Among 16-24 year-olds surveyed, 40% said they gambled, up from 36% in the prior year, while among 25-34 year-olds this figure grew to 49%, and to 50% among 35-44 year-olds. 

Older generations, meanwhile, appear to be gambling less. Of 45-54 year olds, participation fell one percentage point to 52%, and to 48% among 55-64 year-olds, down from 55%. For over 65s, it remained steady at 42%.

The proportion of people who gambled online, however, increased from 18% to 21%, of which half gambled using a mobile phone, up from 44% in 2018. Those using desktop PCs and laptops to gamble declined to 26% and 38% respectively.

Among online gamblers, 95% gambled at home, 15% did so at work and 12% on their commute. A total of 7% of online gamblers did so at pubs or clubs, and 4% at sports venues.

In-play betting declined in popularity as the number of online gamblers taking part declined from 23% to 21%, after reaching a high of 26% in 2016. The decline was strongest among younger people, with the proportion of 18-24 year-olds falling from 40% to 37% and 25-34 year-olds falling from 38% to 30%. The average number of accounts per online gambler remained steady at 2.7.

The proportion of problem gamblers remained steady at 0.5% of adults, but this was slightly below 2016’s figure of 0.7%. A further 0.8% were found to be at moderate risk of developing a gambling problem and 2.7% at low risk.

Those who said they had registered for self-exclusion schemes declined slightly to 5%, while those who were unaware the schemes existed remained steady at 53%. This figure may rise going forward after the Gambling Commission mandated all UK-licenced operators sign up for the Gamstop self-exclusion scheme from 31 March.

The proportion of gamblers who gambled twice or more per week remained steady at 20%. Those who gambled once a week fell slightly to 31%, while those gambling less than once a week increased from 47% to 49%.

Those who said they had received or seen gambling information from operators such as advice on how to seek help or the chances of winning at a certain game remained steady at 60%.

The National Lottery was by far the most popular form of gambling, with 30% playing, up from 2018 but still below 2015. The number playing other lotteries also increased to 12% and those playing scratchcards declined slightly to 10%.

Sports betting (excluding horse racing) was the next most popular form of betting, with the number of players increasing slightly to 6.7%. Private bets declined from 6.1% to 5.6%, fruit and slot machine participation increased from 3.7% to 4.2% and horse racing from 3.8% to 4.0%. Those playing casino games declined slightly to 1.5%.

Of those who bet on sports, 81% placed bets online and 27% in person. In the national lottery, 36% played online and 73% by retail. For casino games, 74% of players played online and 47% in person.

Esports betting increased in popularity, as 6% bet either money or in-game items on esports, up from 4% in 2018.

The amount of people who had seen or heard gambling advertising or sponsorship also remained steady, at 87%. Of this group, 51% said they saw these ads on television, 31% on non-gambling websites, 30% on social media, 18% on radio and 23% in newspapers.

Those taking part in social gaming declined slightly to 20%. Most of these played slot machine-type games, at 64%. Those playing social poker declined to 29% of social gamers while the proportion playing social casino games fell from 42% to 32%.

When asked about nine different areas of gambling policy, more than 60% said they “don't know anything” about each policy area. The two policy issues that the general public were most aware of were the controls in place to ensure that children and young people are not exposed to gambling, with 38% stating that they knew something about the topic; and the maximum amount that can be bet on machines in bookmakers, with 35% saying that they knew something about this.

A total of 32% of respondents said the most important gambling policy issue is having controls in place to ensure that children and young people are not exposed to gambling, the highest figure for any issue. Setting a stake limit on machines in bookmakers was second with 13% and 10% cited increased regulation of non-UK based online gambling operators.

Television news was the most popular source of information about gambling, informing 40% of respondents. Personal experience was next at 31%, followed by newspapers at 26% and online news at 25%.

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