The gambling landscape – what we already know
According to recent figures, approximately 23.6 million people aged 16 and over gamble on products in Great Britain every four weeks, with approximately 15.5 million doing so on products licensed under the Gambling Act 2005.2
It is important not to always consider the gambling sector as a uniform sector – from an industry or consumer perspective.
The gambling sector we regulate comprises a diverse range of products used by a wide range of consumers. Consumers play on different products, for different experiences, and in different environments (in-person or online) which offer differing levels of anonymity and availability. Our research into why people gamble shows it can be an opportunity to socialise or a moment of ‘me time’. It can be a niche activity, or something engaged in by the mainstream.
It is also impacted by the context around it. Sometimes this is by highly visible products that are classed as gambling, like the National Lottery. Sometimes, it could be products that have gambling-like mechanics, such as loot-boxes. It could even be the macro trends that impact everything around us, such as the Covid-19 pandemic or the ongoing pressure on the cost of living. This can make it a complex landscape to unpick or generalise.
The biggest change in the gambling landscape over recent years is a shift to online play, reflecting our lifestyles in general. Technology and globalisation have meant that gambling is no longer confined to opening hours and largely local events, but instead a 24/7 opportunity and global event-driven marketplace.
With 94 percent of UK adults having access to the internet in 2021 it is not surprising that our industry statistics show a long-term trend of increasing online gambling participation and a decrease in land-based gambling. This matches changes seen in other sectors such as the increase in online grocery shopping or the rising popularity of digital-only banks.
Whilst the popularity of gambling in person has declined over time, retail remains a significant part of the sector and is showing signs of recovery following the pandemic.
Against this backdrop of changing trends, our data shows that although the vast majority do not experience gambling-related harms, there are still significant numbers of people who do encounter issues with their gambling.
The precise measurement of problem gambling and harms is complex, and needs continual development, however, we do know that hundreds of thousands of gamblers are suffering negative consequences from their gambling.
Despite the gambling landscape changing fundamentally since the 2005 Act, the headline rates for problem gambling have been static in recent years.
Within those numbers we know that some people are more likely to experience harm than others, including those who engage in multiple activities, men, those with probable mental health issues and players with the highest gambling expenditure. We also know that those suffering gambling-related harms are not a static group, so understanding the individual better and appreciating what works to help those avoid or recover from harm is a key part of advancing our understanding.
2Gambling behaviour in 2022: Findings from the quarterly telephone survey, Gambling Commission, 2023: 44.4 percent engaged in all gambling in the past four weeks, with 29.2 percent excluding National Lottery only.
Estimates of the population for the UK, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (opens in new tab), Office for National Statistics, 2022: mid-year estimates for June 2021 shows a British population for those aged 16 and over as 53,195,320.
Background to our evidence gaps and priorities Next page
Our evidence themes and how they link to the Path to Play framework
Last updated: 23 May 2023
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