UK Study Links Light Gambling to Financial Hardship, Heavy Betting to Earlier Death

  • Mammoth university research analyzed links between gambling spend and related problems
  • It found that the more someone gambled, the higher the probability of financial harm
  • University academics also observed a 37% uptick in mortality at the highest levels of gambling
  • Fresh PwC report shows a YoY increase of 210,000 to 460,000 users of black market betting sites
  • New Swansea University study revealed 24% of bettors in Wales upped gambling during lockdown
Man appears to be betting his house while playing poker at a casino
A mammoth new UK university study has linked light gambling to financial difficulties and heavy betting to a decreased life expectancy. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

6.5 million people observed over seven years

A UK study analyzing data from millions of bank customers has stated that people who gamble relatively lightly are more likely to endure financial hardships. The report, carried out by academics at Oxford and Warwick universities and published yesterday, also found that heavier bettors are more likely to die earlier.

The University of Oxford shared key findings from the study on Twitter:

Considered the most extensive of its kind in the UK, the study analyzed the connections between gambling spend and problems experienced by 6.5 million Lloyds Banking Group customers over a seven-year period.

escalating levels of unemployment, disability, and “substantially increased mortality”

Researchers identified escalating levels of unemployment, disability, and “substantially increased mortality” to be synonymous with the heaviest bracket of gambling over several years. Even though the conclusions do not prove that gambling caused the issues, the research points to a link between increased betting spend and negative outcomes.

Through tracking big financial data, the study found that the more someone gambled, the more likely they were to skip mortgage payments, take out payday loans, and have debt collectors on their tails.

Study provides ammunition for UK regulators

In terms of statistics, the study found a “notably stronger” probability of financial harm when bettors shelled out 3.6% of their monthly expenses on gambling, which translates to an outlay of £91.37 ($133.36) based on the average UK household. The report said this grouping of gamblers had a 22% greater chance of making an unscheduled overdraft, with 19% more susceptible to taking out a payday loan.

The Oxford and Warwick university academics also found a 37% uptick in mortality at the highest levels of gambling.

The UK gambling industry is already under the microscope with the government currently reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act. Subsequently, the recently released study will provide extra ammunition for regulators seeking to apply more Draconian reforms – on the basis that the £14.5bn the industry earns from bettors annually might have a negative impact on a section of UK society.

study should prompt the government “to get a grip”

According to a report in the Guardian, Labour MP Carolyn Harris said the study should prompt the government “to get a grip” and call for harsher restrictions on the “toxic [gambling] industry”. Harris added that the report provides conclusive evidence of the industry “profiteering from the vulnerable and those in severe financial hardship.”

More new gambling reports emerge

On a busy day for studies yesterday, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) released its Review of unlicensed online gambling in the UK. Utilizing black market data collected between November and December 2020 against a similar 2019 sample, it found an increase of 210,000 to 460,000 users of illegal betting sites.

Following the PwC report, industry lobby group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) warned that the problems associated with black market betting sites could get worse if legal operators get hit hard by upcoming Gambling Act reforms. Those who “seek to dismiss or play down the threat of the black market” should take heed of the findings, BGC CEO Michael Dugher said.

Also on February 4, Professor Simon Dymond told ITV News that new research from Swansea University revealed that 24% of gamblers in Wales said they have “spent more time and or more money gambling during the coronavirus pandemic.” He said Welsh bettors “may be gambling for longer […] on riskier bets.”