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Gambling behaviour 2021 - Findings from the quarterly telephone survey

This statistical release covers the quarterly gambling participation and problem gambling prevalence data for the year to December 2021

Published: 22 February 2022

Last updated: 22 February 2022

This version was printed or saved on: 15 June 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/about-us/guide/gambling-behaviour-2021-findings-from-the-quarterly-telephone-survey

Overview: This statistical release covers the quarterly gambling participation and problem gambling prevalence data for the year to December 2021, as well as reporting on respondents’ perceptions of trust, crime, and attitudes towards gambling.

The year 2021 has seen the continuation of some Covid restrictions throughout Great Britain. The various lockdown rules and restrictions throughout the past two years have brought about wider consumer behavioural change and clearly have also had an impact on the gambling sector.

The data in this publication released today is based on the Gambling Commission’s quarterly telephone survey conducted by Yonder Consulting. A nationally representative sample of 4,021 adults aged 16 and over were interviewed via telephone in March, June, September and December 20211.

1 It should be noted that during 2021, the Covid restrictions varied both throughout the year and across the different nations.

Overall gambling participation

43% of adults (16+) said they had participated in at least one form of gambling in the previous four weeks (42% in year to Dec 2020). A slightly larger proportion of those aged 45-54 (51%) and 55-64 (50%) had participated in any form of gambling. Similarly, to the previous year, those in the youngest age group (16-24) had the lowest level of gambling participation (32% in year to Dec 2021). Looking at the data across the five-year period, shows there hasn’t been a return to pre-Covid participation rates, illustrating the long term impact of the pandemic.

Figure 1

Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks, by gender and age.

 Figure 1 shows the proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks, by gender and age

Data from chart

Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks
All respondents
Year to Dec 2017 44.8%
Year to Dec 2018 45.8%
Year to Dec 2019 47.2%
Year to Dec 2020 42.0%
Year to Dec 2021 42.6%
Significant 2020-2021 No
Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks by gender
Gender Male Female
Year to Dec 2017 48.4% 41.4%
Year to Dec 2018 50.8% 40.9%
Year to Dec 2019 51.0% 43.5%
Year to Dec 2020 44.5% 39.6%
Year to Dec 2021 43.6% 41.6%
Significant 2020-2021 No No
Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks by age
Age 16-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Year to Dec 2017 35.0% 47.7% 43.2% 47.8% 50.3% 44.6%
Year to Dec 2018 36.1% 45.9% 43.9% 52.3% 55.0% 42.2%
Year to Dec 2019 40.4% 48.7% 50.5% 52.8% 48.4% 41.9%
Year to Dec 2020 31.2% 39.0% 45.8% 48.4% 46.5% 39.1%
Year to Dec 2021 32.2% 37.2% 42.8% 51.1% 49.7% 40.0%
Significant 2020-2021 No No No No No No

Statistically significant change from Year to December 2020 at the 95% level

As participation in National Lottery draws is so much higher than for other gambling activities, changes in National Lottery participation can have a noticeable impact on overall participation rates. It is therefore useful to remove the responses of those who have only participated in National Lottery draws. When respondents who have only taken part in National Lottery draws are excluded, the overall participation rate for year to Dec 2021 sits at 29%, which is stable compared to year to Dec 2020 but lower than the participation rates we saw pre-Covid.

Figure 2

Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks, by gender and age excluding those only playing National Lottery draw products, by gender and age.

Figure 2 shows the proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks, by gender and age excluding those only playing National Lottery draw products, by gender and age

Data from chart

Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks, excluding those only playing National Lottery draw products
All respondents
Year to Dec 2017 31.1%
Year to Dec 2018 32.1%
Year to Dec 2019 32.5%
Year to Dec 2020 28.2%
Year to Dec 2021 28.6%
Significant 2020-2021†† No
Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks, excluding those only playing National Lottery draw products by gender
Gender Male Female
Year to Dec 2017 33.7% 28.5%
Year to Dec 2018 36.9% 27.5%
Year to Dec 2019 35.6% 29.5%
Year to Dec 2020 29.8% 26.7%
Year to Dec 2021 28.2% 29.1%
Significant 2020-2021†† No No
Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks, excluding those only playing National Lottery draw products by age
Age 16-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Year to Dec 2017 32.4% 37.8% 29.1% 28.6% 30.4% 28.8%
Year to Dec 2018 34.6% 39.6% 32.2% 32.1% 32.0% 24.5%
Year to Dec 2019 38.2% 40.5% 35.3% 32.0% 27.2% 25.5%
Year to Dec 2020 30.0 29.5% 29.3% 31.0% 26.8% 24.4%
Year to Dec 2021 28.9% 31.5% 27.4% 30.9% 29.0% 25.3%
Significant 2020-2021†† No No No No No No

†† Statistically significant change from Year to December 2020 at the 95% level

In year to Dec 2021, participation in many activities was stable. The most popular gambling activities remained National Lottery draws (26%), followed by other lotteries (13%) and scratchcards (7%).

Despite National Lottery draws and scratchcards being popular gambling activities for year to Dec 2021, a significant fall in participation was seen for the National Lottery Lotto draw and for National Lottery branded scratchcards. The closure of retail outlets throughout the pandemic is likely to have contributed towards the reduction in scratchcard play as players moved their play online.

In person gambling participation

In person gambling activities have been severely affected since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, all retail gambling venues closed and throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021 many establishments had further periods of closure and disruption.

Data shows that in year to Dec 2021, 25% of adults had gambled in person in the previous four weeks, a similar proportion to that seen in year to Dec 2020 (26%), which represents a marked reduction from pre-pandemic levels. When those who have only played National Lottery draws are removed from the data, the ‘all respondents’ in person participation rate has also remained statistically stable between 2020 (18%) and 2021 (17%) which represents a significant decline from pre-pandemic participation rates.

Looking at in person participation rates by activity (for those activities which can be played either in person or online), a significant decrease is seen in people buying tickets for National Lottery draws in person (a reduction from 16% in year to 2020 to 14% in year to 2021).

Figure 3

Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of in person gambling in the past four weeks.

Figure 3 shows the proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of in person gambling in the past four weeks

Data from chart

Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of in person gambling in the past four weeks
Year Past 4 week in person gambling Past 4 week in person gambling excluding NL
Year to Dec 2017 34.6% 24.7%
Year to Dec 2018 34.8% 24.7%
Year to Dec 2019 35.1% 24.3%
Year to Dec 2020 26.0% 17.8%
Year to Dec 2021 24.5% 17.2%
Significant 2020-2021 No No

Statistically significant change from Year to December 2020 at the 95% level

Online gambling participation

Overall, in the year to Dec 2021, 25% of adults had gambled online in the previous four weeks, which is statistically stable since year to Dec 2020, but does represent an increase since 2017.

When those who have only played National Lottery draws are removed from the data, the ‘all respondents’ online participation rate has also remained statistically stable between 2020 and 2021. The growth in online participation over the last five years has been steadier when only those who have played National Lottery draws are removed from the data.

Figure 4

Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of online gambling in the past four weeks.

Figure 4 shows the proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of online gambling in the past four weeks

Data from chart

Proportion of respondents participating in at least one form of online gambling in the past four weeks
Year Past 4 week in person gambling Past 4 week in person gambling excluding NL
Year to Dec 2017 18.3% 13.6%
Year to Dec 2018 18.5% 14.4%
Year to Dec 2019 21.1% 16.6%
Year to Dec 2020 23.6% 17.0%
Year to Dec 2021 25.3% 18.0%
Significant 2020-2021 No No

Statistically significant change from Year to December 2020 at the 95% level

Problem and at-risk gambling

Problem gambling means gambling to a degree that compromises, disrupts, or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits. The Commission’s most robust sources of statistics on the prevalence of problem and at-risk gambling are the national health surveys. You can view the the latest health survey data (England) (opens in a new tab). The Commission also tracks problem gambling data via the quarterly telephone survey to provide a more regular and up to date measure of problem gambling prevalence. The Commission is currently piloting a new approach for collecting gambling participation and prevalence data in the future. Further details on participation and prevalence can be found on our website.

Using the PGSI (Problem Gambling Severity Index) mini screen, the telephone survey for year to Dec 2021 shows the problem gambling rate to be 0.3% (statistically stable since year to Dec 2020). In addition, for year to Dec 2021, the moderate risk is 0.8% and the low risk rate sits at 1.9%, both statistically stable compared to year to Dec 2020. This stability in 2021 follows previous significant decreases in the problem gambling and at risk rates as described in the Year to Sept 2021 release.

Figure 5

Low risk, moderate risk and problem gamblers (according to the PGSI mini-screen).

Figure 5 shows data around low risk, moderate risk and problem gamblers (according to the PGSI mini-screen)

Data from chart

Low risk, moderate risk and problem gamblers (according to the PGSI mini-screen)
Year to Dec 2017 Year to Dec 2018 Year to Dec 2019 Year to Dec 2020 Year to Dec 2021 Significant 2020 to 2021
Low risk 3.2 3.3 2.7 2.0 1.9 No
Moderate risk 1.9 1.5 1.2 0.9 0.8 No
Problem gambler 0.6 0.5 0.6 0.3 0.3 No

Statistically significant change from Year to December 2020 at the 95% level.

Perceptions

The Commission also track public perceptions of gambling, using questions in the telephone survey.

Trust

Figure 6 shows the percentage of respondents who agreed, either strongly or slightly, with the statement that gambling in this country is conducted fairly and can be trusted.

Overall, in year to Dec 2021, 30% of respondents agreed with the statement that gambling is conducted fairly and can be trusted, statistically stable compared to the previous year. Gamblers’ attitudes remain more positive than non-gamblers. In year to Dec 2021, a significantly higher proportion of gamblers agreed with the statement (36%) compared with 32% in year to Dec 2020.

Figure 6

Respondents agreeing that gambling in this country is conducted fairly and can be trusted.

 Figure 6 shows respondents agreeing that gambling in this country is conducted fairly and can be trusted

Respondents agreeing that gambling in this country is conducted fairly and can be trusted
Year to Dec 2017 Year to Dec 2018 Year to Dec 2019 Year to Dec 2020 Year to Dec 2021 Significant 2020 to 2021
All respondents 33.0 29.9 29.0 28.8 30.1 No
Gambled in past 12 months 37.5 33.6 32.0 31.9 36.2 Yes
Not gambled in past 12 months 27.0 24.6 24.5 24.9 23.8 No

Statistically significant change from Year to December 2020 at the 95% level.

Attitudes

Respondents were also asked further questions about their attitudes and opinions towards gambling in Great Britain using a series of positive and negative statements originating from a shortened version of the Attitudes Towards Gambling Scale (ATGS-8).

Figure 7

Respondents agreeing with attitude statements.

Figure 7 shows respondents agreeing with attitude statements

Data from chart

Respondents agreeing with attitude statements
Year to Dec 2017 Year to Dec 2018 Year to Dec 2019 Year to Dec 2020 Year to Dec 2021 Significant 2020 to 2021††
There are too many opportunities for gambling nowadays 80.4 79.4 82.3 83.0 81.8 No
Gambling is dangerous for family life 71.0 70.8 72.6 74.5 69.9 Yes
People should have the right to gamble whenever they want 64.2 62.1 60.2 59.8 59.4 No
Gambling should be discouraged 57.0 57.6 61.8 63.4 58.9 Yes
Most people who gamble do so sensibly 39.4 36.2 35.5 35.9 40.2 Yes
Gambling livens up life 28.4 28.0 25.8 27.5 30.0 No
It would be better if gambling was banned altogether 25.1 25.4 28.6 30.5 27.6 No
On balance, gambling is good for society 14.6 13.1 12.5 15.6 14.5 No

†† Statistically significant change from Year to December 2020 at the 95% level.

In year to Dec 2021, 82% of respondents agreed that there are too many opportunities for gambling and 70% agreed that gambling is dangerous. In year to Dec 2021, significantly fewer respondents agreed that ‘gambling is dangerous for family life’ (70%) compared to 75% in the previous year. The percentage of respondents agreeing that ‘gambling should be discouraged’ has also significantly decreased from 63% to 59% between 2020 and 2021. In addition, the percentage of respondents agreeing that ‘most people who gamble do so sensibly’ has significantly increased from 36% in year to Dec 2020 to 40% in year to Dec 2021.

Notes

This publication is primarily for anyone who has an involvement or interest in the gambling industry including government, licensed operators, trade bodies, international regulators, journalists, academic researchers, financial institutions, statisticians, consumers and local authorities.

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