The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has revealed that the country’s problem gambling rate has dropped for another year to 0.2%, prompting the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) to praise the industry’s efforts.
Issuing an update, the UKGC demonstrated that problem gambling rates had consistently fallen year-on-year from 2020 onwards, with the March 2020 figure standing at 0.6%, falling to 0.4% the following year and 0.2% this year.
The rate also represents a second decline this year, as the UKGC’s most recent update detailed a problem gambling rate of 0.3%, as the issue falls increasingly under the spotlight with the 2005 Gambling Act review White Paper due for publication soon.
Responding to the development, the BGC’s CEO Michael Dugher praised the betting industry’s contributions to research, education and training (RET) funds, and encouraged Minister’s to maintain an ‘evidence-based approach’ to the Gambling Act review and not to ‘pander to the anti-gambling lobby’.
“These newly released figures are further evidence of that positive progress and underline our calls for ministers to take a genuinely evidence-based approach to the upcoming White Paper and not pander to the anti-gambling lobby,” he said.
“Our initiatives have included using advertising to promote safer gambling tools like deposit limits and time-outs, investing more in research and treatment, changes to advertising, stronger protections for younger people and introducing tough new rules on VIP schemes.
“It also underlines the success of an increase in voluntary funding by the betting and gaming industry to support independent charities in delivering research, education and treatment (RET) for problem gamblers.”
The BGC was also keen to contrast the UK’s rate with that of other European countries such as Norway and France, which pursue different regulatory frameworks and experience higher levels of problem gambling.
Echoing the voice of BGC Chair Brigid Simmonds – who voiced her views on the matter in the Conservative Party’s news-page Conservative Home – Dugher argued that the implementation of a statutory RET levy would do more harm than good.
The CEO remarked: “Those that argue for a statutory levy want nothing more than a brand new tax on the industry which won’t put an extra penny into RET, but it could hammer parts of the sector, in particular the land based casinos who are only just recovering from the pandemic, threatening jobs and businesses.
“It could also end up threatening the progress being made by established charities who are leading vitally important work on RET across the whole country, as shown by the latest problem gambling figures.”
However, although problem gambling rates have fallen overall, there have been some increases when the population is broken down by age, with the rate among 16-24 year olds rising from 0.4% in 2021 to 0.8% this year, the highest it has been since 2018.
Furthermore, results across all respondents showed that the number of moderate risk gamblers rose by 0.3% from 2021, with the rate among 16-24 year olds rising from 0.9% to 2.9% over the past year.
On the other hand, the number of gamblers categorised as low risk has fallen across the board from 1.9% last year to 1.4% this year – although it is unclear as to whether some of these gamblers may have become moderate risk – with the exception of the over 65 age group which rose by 0.6%.
Overall, the problem gambling rate has indeed fallen once again – something which the BGC argues can be partly attributed to the promotion of safer gambling policies by the UK’s betting industry incumbents.
Throughout the overhaul of Britain’s gambling legislation, the BGC has repeatedly reiterated the threat posed by black market operators, which do not have the same responsible gambling provisions as legal firms.
“The regulated betting and gaming industry is determined to promote safer gambling, unlike the unsafe, unregulated and growing online black market, which has none of the safeguards which are the norm among BGC members,” Dugher concluded.
“Ministers should not drive customers into the arms of the black market by introducing intrusive personal checks for non-problem gamblers and those not at risk, or by taking away the offers that punters in a highly competitive market enjoy.”