Nearly three quarters of adults in Britain gamble

Press release

Date: 15 February 2011

More people are taking part in gambling according to an independent report published today by the Gambling Commission showing that nearly three quarters of adults (73%) gambled in the previous year, up from 68% in 2007. The vast majority of gamblers say they take part “because it’s fun” and “for the chance of winning big money”. The British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010 shows that the British public take part in a wide range of activities with still only a relatively small proportion gambling online.

The measures of problem gambling in the report also show an increase in the number of problem gamblers in Britain, though the authors note it is not possible to say whether this represents an upward trend or a temporary fluctuation (see note 1). The proportions increased from 0.5% of the adult population in 2007 to 0.7% in 2010 (which is not statistically significant) on one measure and from 0.6% in 2007 to 0.9% in 2010 (which is at the margins of statistical significance) on the other measure used (see notes). These rates are similar to those in other European countries (Germany, Norway and Switzerland) where this has been measured and are lower than countries like the USA, Australia and South Africa.

This latest report is the third in a series which provide data on participation in gambling, the prevalence of problem gambling and attitudes towards gambling. It is the first major survey on the prevalence of gambling in Great Britain to be completed since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force in 2007 and was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

“The survey confirms that there are a significant and growing number of people who take part in gambling“, said Brian Pomeroy, the Gambling Commission’s Chairman.

“However, it also indicates that a small, but probably growing, proportion of the population have serious problems with their gambling. This reinforces our determination to see that gambling regulation continues to both minimise the risk to those individuals and ensure that the majority of people can continue to gamble safely.”

Baroness Neuberger, the Chair of both the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board* and the Responsible Gambling Fund*, commented: 

“To find out which treatment and prevention programmes really work we need a better understanding of how to reduce the harm experienced by problem gamblers and how to help them. This means the industry needs to meet agreed fundraising targets to pay for these programmes plus the supporting research”.

The full survey is available on the Gambling Commission’s website.


Notes to editors

  1. 1. Please see the report for a full explanation of the caveats around the change in problem gambling estimates.
  2. 2. Two internationally recognised tools were used to measure problem gambling - the ‘DSM-IV’ and the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). Both of these screening tools were used in the 2007 survey which allows direct comparison. The PGSI was introduced into the 2007 survey to replace the South Oaks Gambling Screen which was used alongside the DSM IV in 1999. DSM-IV stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, 4th edition.
  3. 3. Comparisons to other jurisdictions show Britain has a problem gambling rate similar to Norway (0.8%), Germany (0.6%) and Switzerland (0.8%), and lower than the USA (3.5%), Australia (between 1.4% - 2.1%) and South Africa (1.4%), (comparisons should be treated with caution, as different methodologies have been used in different countries and some results are from older surveys).
  4. 4. Problem gambling, measured as a percentage of adults shows that, with the DSM IV screen, prevalence of problem gambling was higher in 2010 (0.9%) than 2007 and 1999 (0.6% in both years). This finding was statistically significant though the results showed that it was at the margins of statistical significance. The second tool, the PGSI screen, showed a lower level with around 0.7% of the adult population being affected in 2010 against 0.6 % in 2007. This finding is not statistically significant.
  5. 5. The number of individuals (aged 16 years and over) interviewed was 7,756 and interviews took an average time of 15 minutes.
  6. 6. NatCen (the National Centre for Social Research) is a not-for-profit independent social research organisation, dedicated to promoting a better informed society through high quality social research.
  7. 7. The BGPS was peer reviewed by Professor Dean Gerstein of Claremont Graduate University, California and by Professor John Strang of King’s College, London.
  8. 8. Advanced access was granted to the following bodies on 14 February: Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department of Health, the Scottish Government, National Lottery Commission and the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board
  9. 9. The Gambling Act 2005 places social responsibility requirements on British-based gambling operators who are also required to contribute to research, education and treatment of problem gamblers. Requirements include: training staff to recognise and deal with problem gambling; implementing policies for interacting with customers who appear to have a gambling problem; prominently displaying where help can be found by those who need it; enabling players on the internet to keep control by setting limits on their stakes; and providing for self-exclusion from gambling premises for players who seek it.
  10. 10.The Gambling Commission regulates gambling in the public interest alongside its co-regulators local licensing authorities. It does so by keeping crime out of gambling, by ensuring that gambling is conducted fairly and openly, and by protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling. The Commission also provides independent advice to government on gambling in Britain.
  11. 11. The Commission and local licensing authorities are responsible for licensing and regulating all gambling in Great Britain other than the National Lottery and spread betting, which are the responsibility of the National Lottery Commission and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) respectively.
  12. 12.* The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) advises the Gambling Commission on research, education and treatment programmes needed to support a national responsible gambling strategy and associated funding requirements. The Responsible Gambling Fund (RGF) is a charity that distributes the funds raised by the industry to support gambling research, education and treatment.  The RGSB made recommendations on the levels of voluntary funding required from the industry in its initial strategy document of October 2009 (2010 - £5m, 2011 - £6m, 2012 - £7m).
  13. 13.See the Terms & Conditions section of our website for information on legal advice.  

Further information

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