Gambling-Related Harm Costs England £1.27bn Per Year, Says Public Health Report

  • PHE found that gambling harms incurred costs of at least £1.27bn ($1.71bn) in 2019 and 2020
  • Men and heavy drinkers are more likely to gamble excessively compared with others
  • The results will inform the DCMS as it continues to review the UK Gambling Act 2005
  • Another survey has found that Spain has the joint-lowest rate of problem gambling in Europe
Gambler with head in hands
Public Health England has estimated that gambling-related harm cost the country at least £1.27bn ($1.71bn) annually in the past two years. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A high price for society

The UK has one of the biggest gambling markets in the world, generating a profit of around £14.2bn ($19.11bn) in 2020 alone. According to a new report in England, however, the industry also has a high cost for society in regard to gambling-related harm.

bankruptcy, family issues, and health harms such as suicide

Public Health England (PHE) completed a study on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DCMS). By reviewing the evidence on gambling harms, PHE estimated that the issue cost England at least £1.27bn ($1.71bn) in 2019 and 2020. The cost incorporates a number of problems associated with gambling, including bankruptcy, family issues, and health harms such as suicide.

Rosanna O’Connor, director of Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco, and Justice for PHE, commented on the study. “The evidence is clear – harmful gambling is a public health issue and needs addressing on many fronts, with an emphasis on preventing these harms from occurring as well as with help readily accessible for those directly and indirectly affected,” she said.

PHE report reveals all

PHE released a statement on the government website on Thursday revealing details of its study. Among other findings, the review linked gender and mental health with the likelihood of a person experiencing gambling harm. Men are over four times more likely than women to gamble at levels of elevated risk, while people with mental health issues are twice as likely as those without.

Men are over four times more likely than women to gamble at levels of elevated risk

In addition to this, the study found that areas with higher levels of poverty, such as those in the North of England, face a greater risk of gambling harm. PHE also linked gambling issues with higher levels of alcohol consumption, with around 35% of non-drinkers participating in gambling in comparison to 74% of heavy drinkers.

In regard to mental health specifically, the study suggested that gambling can increase the risk of such issues. This includes particularly the possibility of someone attempting or dying from suicide. People with gambling problems are at least twice as likely to die from suicide compared to the general public, according to the review.

To protect the UK public from mental health issues associated with gambling, the UK government intends to increase its investment in NHS gambling addiction clinics. Minister for Mental Health Gillian Keegan has confirmed that the government will invest at least an extra £2.3bn ($3.1bn) per year in this field from 2021 to 2024.

Gambling Act review continues

The DCMS has confirmed that the review will inform action on prevention and treatment of gambling-related harms. The results come as MPs consider UK gambling law in an ongoing review of the Gambling Act 2005.

The department began its review of the Gambling Act in December last year, and is hoping to implement changes to the legislation which dictates gambling law across the entire UK. Among other areas, MPs will consider staking limits for online gaming, the issue of loot boxes, and gambling marketing.

will heavily impact the English Premier League

According to a report from Sportsmail last month, the UK government has already decided to ban front-of-shirt gambling sponsorships in soccer. The measure will heavily impact the English Premier League, in which 45% of teams have betting shirt sponsorships this season. All but one of the league’s teams have a betting deal in some form.

A Spanish comparison

While the PHE survey has established the scale of gambling-related harm issues in England, another recent survey has assessed problem gambling levels in Spain. The study, conducted by Carlos III University in Madrid, found that Spain and Denmark have the joint-lowest rate of problem gambling in Europe. Just 0.25% of gamblers in the two countries gamble at a rate considered excessive.

The study also established that the amount of land-based gambling in Spain dropped significantly in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of Spanish people playing at casinos, bingo halls, gaming lounges, retail betting shops, or gaming machines fell 50% over the year, to 3.8 million. Meanwhile, online gaming remained steady at around 1.5 million.