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Gambling Behaviour Report by UK Gambling Commission Sends Media into Frenzy

ukgcBritain’s leading gambling regulatory authority, the UKGC recently published the results of their survey, entitled Gambling Behaviour in Great Britain, which highlighted the fact that problem gambling has increased by 0.2% on a nationwide scale since 2012.

These results sparked a series of hysterical headlines by the British media that took advantage of this statistic and twisted it around to blow the actual facts way out of proportion.

Usually level-headed, the Guardian misleadingly reported that “more than 2 million people in the UK are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction,” without considering that the real figure as cited by the UKGC, is actually around 430,000 out of the total UK population (over 16) of 54 million. Unsurprisingly, the Sun  completely ignored all real facts with their eye-catching headline, “More than 2 Million People May Be Problem Gamblers.”

The UKGC analysed the gambling habits of all British citizens over 16 years of age and found that the percentage of problem gamblers saw an increase from 0.6% to 0.8% since its last survey. However, they consider these rates to be statistically stable and calculated that the amount of people “at risk of problem gambling” has in fact, decreased from 4.2% to 3.9%.

Has the Media Stirred Up a Storm in a Teacup?

Despite the fact that this increase is the first to be recorded since the surveys started being carried out back in 1999, 0.2% is well within the margin of error allowed for surveys of this kind, using a sample of around 15,000.

Additionally, when compared to several other countries where gambling is popular, Great Britain’s rates are relatively low, especially when considering that it boasts one of the most developed online gambling industries in the world. The same figure stands at around the 1% mark with a spike in Australia at 1.7%. While the methodlogy for each survey may differ, mostly all countries use the DSM-4 as standard diagnostic criteria to gauge outcomes.

However, the UKGC has still warned that gambling rates for fixed odd betting terminals saw a significant increase, from 11.5% to 7.2% in 3 years. and therefore more should be done to mitigate this problem.

The machines are currently being reviewed by government officials and it’s expected that the maximum stakes will be reduced. In a statement for the UKGC, executive director, Tim Miller stated that the regulatory authority stands by its “commitment to make gambling fairer and safer and these figures show that this is a significant challenge.” Nevertheless, a successful outcome will depend on a shared effort by all parties involved in order to protect the safety of players.


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