Facts about gambling in the UK

Gambling is a hugely popular pastime in the United Kingdom, and thanks to the British gambling regulator the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, we know have a greater insight into the gambling habits of UK punters. We look at some of the most interesting facts about gambling in the UK to determine just how important it is that online casinos become a safe and regulated market for players worldwide.

What is the United Kingdom Gambling Commission?

UK gambling CommissionThe United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGB) is an industry body responsible for licensing and regulating all gambling activity in the UK, both online and offline. When a gambling operator applies for a license, the UKGB assesses the operator for suitability and determines whether they are worthy of a UK license. The Commission then keeps an eye on all licensed operators to ensure they adhere to a strict set of rules and regulations under the UK’s gambling, advertising and consumer laws.

The main objectives of the UKGB is to prevent gambling from becoming a source of crime or disorder, ensure gambling is conducted in a fair and open way and to protect children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling. The Commission works with multiple authoritative bodies to obtain data and compile statistics related to the gambling industry, which they then publish publically on the official government website. The information in this article has been obtained from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission’s 2016-2017 Annual Report which relates to data collected from the 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017.

Key facts about the UK gambling industry

UK gambling statistics

  • The gross gambling yield of the Great Britain gambling industry during the 2015-2016 period was £13.8 billion
  • The gross gambling yield of the UK online gambling sector was £4.5 billion
  • The number of employees in the Great Britain gambling industry was 106,678 in 2016
  • There were 8,788 betting ships operating in Great Britain
  • There were 583 bingo premises operating in Great Britain
  • There were 147 casinos operating in Great Britain
  • There were 176,410 gaming machines operating across Great Britain
  • The online gambling industry accounted for 32% of the market share

Number of gamblers in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission conducted 4,000 telephone interviews at quarterly intervals during 2016, asking participants questions about their gambling participation during the previous four weeks on online gambling, lotteries, casinos, bingo, sports betting, gaming machines and arcade games. The key statistics to come out of that research revealed:

  • Approximately 25 million adults (45% of the UK population) had gambled in the past four weeks
  • More than 3 million adults had bet on football games in the past four weeks
  • 15.5 million adults had bought a lottery ticket in the past four weeks
  • Nearly 9 million adults had gambled online in the past four weeks
  • Around 450,000 11-15 year olds had gambled with friends in the past week

Public attitude towards gambling

UK gambling factsDespite the surge in the number of UK residents participating in gambling activities, public attitudes towards gambling are becoming more negative, with the number of people believing individuals should be free to gamble whenever they want declining. According to the UKGB, in 2010, 78% of people believed gamblers should be able to gamble whenever they want, compared to 69% of people in 2016. This decline is likely due to the changing public opinion about gambling, with a greater proportion of people (69% in 2016) now believing gambling presents dangers to family life. The biggest notable change in public opinion is that 56% of UK citizens now believe gambling should be discouraged, compared to 36% in 2010.

The Commission recognises that members of the UK public now have less tolerant attitudes towards gambling, and aim to reflect this trend in their approach to legislation. They note public opinion is based on personal experience, advertising and television and will continue to consider how these mediums can be used in the best interest of the public.

Gambling related harm

The harm caused by gambling is difficult to gauge, and the UKGB is making it a priority to work with Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) to further develop this research and put greater protection measures in place. Currently, the Commission estimates there are 320,000 problem gamblers in the United Kingdom (1.3% of gamblers) and a further 2.5m at risk of experiencing gambling related harm.

Responsible gambling habits

We constantly hear about the need for punters to gamble responsibly, with government and community organisations suggesting various practices and implementing regulations to ensure gambling doesn’t become problematic to individuals. But are any of these measures working?

According to the UKGB, only 6% of gamblers have ever used a voluntary self-exclusion program, but awareness of such programs is on the rise, with 37% of gamblers now aware that such a tool exists. Only 1 in 10 online gamblers have used financial limits to manage their gambling activity, which suggests many punters are treading on dangerous ground when it comes to gambling more than they can afford to lose.

Understanding casino terms and conditions

One of the stand out pieces of information in the UKGB’s Annual Report is the fact that 77% of all online gamblers do not read the terms and conditions when playing at an online casino, with women and those aged 65+ even less likely. When signing up for an account with an online casino, it is vital you read the terms and conditions. The fine print contains all kinds of important information, including things like which countries are excluded from playing at the site, bonus wagering requirements and withdrawal limitations. Reading the T’s and C’s ensures you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and avoids any disappointment further down the track.

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