Survey Suggests Surge in UK Problem Gambling as Addicts Left Untreated

  • GambleAware-commissioned survey says gambling rates much higher than previously estimated
  • YouGov estimates that problem gambling rate is 2.7% of adult population in Great Britain
  • Report found that almost five million people have been exposed to gambling-related harm
  • 46% of gambling addicts, mostly women and low-income workers, were not getting treatment 
  • GambleAware and UKGC commented that YouGov survey figures could be an overestimation
hand filling in questionnaire on paper
A new YouGov survey suggests that levels of problem gambling in the UK are a lot higher than previously estimated. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Unprecedented results

Gambling addiction rates in the UK are a lot higher than previously estimated, according to new research.

as many as 2.7% of the adult population in Great Britain – almost 1.4 million people – can be classified as problem gamblers

The GambleAware charity commissioned a survey from British market research firm YouGov that asked adults about their gambling habits. YouGov estimates that as many as 2.7% of the adult population in Great Britain – almost 1.4 million people – can be classified as problem gamblers. 

Some experts did express that caution needs to be taken with the survey results, saying that the actual rates are likely to be closer to the 0.7% that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has cited in the past. 

Further findings

According to the YouGov survey report, up to 7% of adults, or 3.6 million people, have been negatively affected by another person’s gambling addiction. This means almost five million people in Britain have been exposed to some form of harm relating to problem gambling. 

almost half (46%) of gambling addicts were not getting any treatment

It also stated that almost half (46%) of gambling addicts were not getting any treatment. This was particularly the case for women and low-income individuals. The stigma around gambling addiction and the lack of awareness of treatment services are major barriers that prevent sufferers from getting help. 

Questioning the data

Both the UKGC and GambleAware believe that YouGov’s problem gambling estimates are higher than in reality. This came after Professor Patrick Sturgis, a survey sampling expert, completed a review on the survey data. Sturgis did, however, note that the survey figures could not be completely dismissed, as previous research may have underestimated the levels of addiction. 

Still, the UKGC acknowledged that the information obtained is “invaluable” with regard to gaps in gambling treatment currently being provided in Great Britain. 

A total of 16,000 respondents completed the YouGov survey. To be defined as a problem gambler, a person would need to get a score of eight or more on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI).

Calls for more help for problem gamblers

With the publication of the YouGov report, some people are calling for further protections for problem gamblers. Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who is also the chairperson for a parliamentary group for gambling-related harm, deemed the results to be “deeply concerning”.

Harris acknowledged that the 2.7% figure could be an overstatement but said it still suggests that problem gambling is more of an issue than previously thought. Harris is calling on policymakers, gambling support services, and the UKGC to note these findings and to provide proper support for gambling addicts. 

According to Matt Gaskell, a clinical lead for NHS gambling clinics in the North of England, the report should result in major changes in the offering and delivery of treatment and support for problem gamblers. He observed

a significant gap between very high levels of gambling harm and the provision of help”

saying “this gives a useful guide as to how and where to plug some of these gaps.” Gaskell added that greater public awareness about the addictiveness of gambling can be key to breaking down the stigma.