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Annual Report and Accounts 2021 to 2022

The Gambling Commission's 2021 to 2022 Annual Report and Accounts.

  1. Contents
  2. Performance report
  3. Overview of the British gambling sector

Overview of the British gambling sector

Due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise in the cost-of-living, we continued to monitor how Government measures and varying lockdown restrictions have impacted gambling behaviour and overall participation.

We have monitored gambling behaviour by gathering, analysing and publishing data from operators, as well as conducting consumer research. Now released on a quarterly basis, the publications can be found on our website.

We have continued to stress the need for extra operator vigilance and the need to be mindful that:

  • people will still be spending more time at home and online, and many are likely to be feeling more isolated and vulnerable - with further uncertainty about their personal circumstances due to Covid-19 and rising costs at home
  • some consumers, such as highly engaged gamblers who play a range of products, are likely to spend more time and money gambling
  • there are consumers who may be gambling for the first time.

The gambling industry

In 2021, there were over 2,000 gambling operators licensed to provide gambling activities in Great Britain, covering both land based and online activities. During the year the industry has continued to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with land-based operations having faced periods of closure throughout 2020 and 2021.

The following statistics give a snapshot of the latest British gambling sector figures showing the impact of the pandemic period:

  • total Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) of British gambling industry (2019-20): £14.1 billion - down 1.4 percent when compared to April 2018-March 2019 (data not available for 2020-21 or 2021-22)1
  • total GGY of British remote and/or online sector (2020-21) up 18.4 percent when compared to April 2019-March 20202.

In Great Britain in 2019-20, there were:

  • 156 casinos
  • 648 bingo premises
  • 1,641 licensed arcades
  • 7,683 betting shops
  • 186,832 gaming machines.

Consumers and gambling

In 2021, around two fifths of the adult population gambled each month, this equates to:

  • approximately 22.5 million adults gambled in 2021 (15.1 million excluding those who only play National Lottery draws)
  • approximately 13.4 million adults who gambled online in 2021 (9.5 million excluding those who only play National Lottery draws)
  • approximately 12.9 million adults gambled in-person in 2021 (9.1 million excluding those who only play National Lottery draws).

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted gambling participation rates and whilst 23.3 million adults gambled in 2017, this reduced to 22.5 million in 2021. The National Lottery, other lotteries and scratch cards remained the most popular gambling activities in 20213.

Over time there has been a gradual but consistent increase in the proportion of people gambling online, with much of this increase being driven by National Lottery players moving from retail to online.

The number of people gambling in-person significantly declined in 2020 during the pandemic in which many high street retailers faced several periods of enforced closure, in-person participation remained at this lower level in 2021.

However, despite the decrease in-person gambling remains a significant part of the gambling industry, with retail betting alone accounting for 22 percent of the total GGY in 2019-20 (excluding National Lottery figures)1.

Gambling participation

Line chart showing gambling participation within the Annual Report 2021 to 2022. Data provided within the following table.

Gambling participation
Year Overall past 4 week participation (percentage) Online participation (percentage) In person participation (percentage)
Year to December 2017 44.8% 18.3% 34.6%
Year to December 2018 45.8% 18.5% 34.8%
Year to December 2019 47.2% 21.1% 35.1%
Year to December 2020 42.0% 23.6% 26.0%
Year to December 2021 42.6% 25.3% 24.5%

With the increasing take up of mobile technology in recent years, data from Ofcom shows that 95 percent of United Kingdom (UK) adults now use a mobile phone, with the majority owning a smartphone (85 percent)4, thus making the internet accessible anywhere and at any time.

The increased use of mobile technology is reflected in the Gambling Commission’s data too, with 60 percent of online gamblers having used a mobile phone to gamble on in 20215. Whilst an increase in using mobile phones for online gambling has been seen, the figure represents a switch in the devices those gamblers are playing on, with lower use of Personal Computers (PCs), laptops and tablets seen in 2021 compared to previous years.

Problem and at-risk gambling

Whilst measurement is complex, studies show there are hundreds of thousands of adults experiencing serious issues with their gambling. The 2018 Health Survey for England estimates are:

  • between 160,000 and 340,000 adults in England are problem gamblers6
  • between 270,000 and 480,000 adults in England are classed as moderate risk gamblers6
  • the most recent data (2018) for the number of problem gamblers (according to the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) or DSM-IV) and at-risk gamblers (according to the PGSI) is taken from the Health Survey for England. Unfortunately, there was not a comprehensive picture available in 2018 for the whole of Great Britain.

National Lottery

The following statistics give a snapshot of the latest figures for the National Lottery:

  • £1.84 billion raised for good causes during 2020-217
  • over £45 billion raised for good causes since 19948
  • approximately 13.9 million people reported buying a National Lottery ticket in the past four weeks, with half of players purchasing tickets in retail shops and half purchasing tickets online in 20213.


1 Industry statistics 2019-20. Published in November 2021 (no update available since November 2020).

2 Industry Statistics 2020-21 for Remote Casino, Bingo and Betting (RCBB) and the National Lottery only.

3 Quarterly Telephone Survey – Year to December 2021.

4 Ofcom Media Literacy Tracker.

5 Online Tracker – Year to December 2021 data.

6 Health Survey England 2018.

7 National Lottery funds payable to good causes 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 – Annual Report (published in July 2021).

8 Funds raised for good causes Q4 2021-22 (published May 2022).

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