Online gambling ‘disproportionately concentrated’ in Britain’s ‘worst deprived areas’


GambleAware revealed that participation and spending on gambling products is disproportionately concentrated in the most deprived areas of Britain.

This conclusion came when the charity revealed its commissioned study on gambling patterns, carried out by researchers from NatCen and Professor David Forrest and Professor Ian McHalefrom University of Liverpool.

The research data includes 139,152 online gambling accounts provided by seven major operators between July 2018 and June 2019 and includes products such as slots, casino games and bingo.

“This research adds to the growing body of evidence showing that gambling harms disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged communities,” said Zoe OsmondCEO, GambleAware.

“The current cost of living crisis as well as the economic fallout from the pandemic can only further exacerbate this situation – underscoring the need for concerted, system-wide action to prevent gambling harms.

“We welcome the findings and recommendations for future public health campaigns, as we work to remove the barriers that people with gambling harms face when accessing treatment and support.”

In the report, the study said that while the industry relies on problem gambling rates via the Gambling Commission to determine gambling-related harms affecting individuals, families and friends, and the society in general, the problem is that problem gambling rates focus “only on gamblers”, and therefore “underestimates the scope and number of people affected by gambling”.

Additionally, the UKGC report found that research into patterns of play was carried out with less aggregated/more granular data and with the inclusion of bets, allowed for a richer analysis.

He explained that an example of a high level of aggregation on this date would be players’ monthly losses, which were recorded for the whole month but without detail to show how those losses were accumulated.

In addition, the study aimed to extend and build on previous work by using more detailed data on online gamer behavior over a longer period than the month previously used.

The report said that, comparing the results to those of the Health Survey for England, participation in online slots, casino games and bingo is ‘less widespread’ than participation in betting online, but said the prevalence of problem gambling among its gamblers is more than twice as high.

While emphasizing that the data analyzed in this study did not directly observe problem gambling, findings that suggested a greater risk of harm in industry data were further highlighted in the survey.

Those identified as problem gamblers were more likely to have spent larger amounts of money and gambled only on gambling products or betting and gambling products in 2018/19 with their sampled accounts.

Among operators participating in the study, only 25% of accounts were used for both activities, yet these accounts generated 55% of operator revenue.

Dual customers were heavily over-represented among the highest spending accounts, for example, they held over 55% of accounts with a loss over the year over £2,000.

During the study year, 3.9% of account holders received a social responsibility contact, an email in the vast majority of cases. Only 0.13% of account holders received a phone call.

The report said: “Many of those who spent significantly more than average customers during online gambling in 2018-2019 will not have been people with problems.

“As with other hobbies, some respondents will have more enthusiasm than others and a strong preference for the particular activity can translate into a high commitment in terms of money or time, without harming anyone.

“On the other hand, the level of spending on gambling is known to be correlated with problem gambling status. In addition, high spending may itself create much of the harm associated with problem gambling, because so much harm stem from or are mediated by financial stress.

The UKGC report pointed out that the follow-up survey reported in this study confirms a relationship between the level of account spending in 2019-2019 and the likelihood of remembering financial management issues and the likelihood of ever having self-perceived gambling problem.

Additionally, the study said it was surprised that the majority of “big spenders” were not recorded as having received a social responsibility contact during the year. He said only three per cent of accounts had a net loss of more than £2,000 in the study year.

Of these, only about a third received any intervention (such as a message about safer gambling sent via email) and less than one percent were transferred to the point of a phone call.

The study acknowledged that some of the uncontacted individuals may have received an intervention prior to the data period and satisfactory evidence was gathered that the client was not at risk of harm.

Going forward, the study recommends that future safer gaming campaigns place more emphasis on the risks associated with online casino and slot games. Also, these public awareness campaigns need to consider gender differences in gambling habits.

In addition, operators should closely monitor customers who have switched from dual betting status only. It is also stated that operators should consider lowering their threshold to initiate an interaction with customers.

Additionally, operators should be more curious about their top-spending customers and adopt internal procedures to guard against suspicions that commercial considerations are allowed to compromise compliance with the social responsibility code.

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