UK Online Gambling at Record High as Overall Gambling Rates Continue to Climb

  • In-person gambling has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels
  • New prime minister Rishi Sunak is under pressure for gambling reform
  • The UKGC revealed to much concern that problem gambling is increasing
  • The UK is entering a decisive time with the Qatar World Cup approaching
Roulette wheel with an Earth ball landing on a space with a UK flag
UK online gambling is at a record high amid constant turnover in the government and growing problem gambling. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Staggering figures

More than one in four people in the UK are actively gambling online, according to numbers released by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC).

44% of UK residents are betting in person, just missing out on the pre-pandemic mark

While 27% of people are gambling online, 44% of UK residents are betting in person, just missing out on the pre-pandemic mark of 47% from September 2019. The proliferating gambling market has caused both pride and concern for different entities.

With the recent change in prime minister, there could be updates to gambling laws coming soon. Regardless, it is safe to say that the UK will continue growing its fruitful market with or without new legislation.

Breakdown of UK gambling

The Commission’s study was analyzed by the UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT), which found that the 25-34-year-old age group saw the largest increase in participation. 43% of people in the age range had gambled at least once in the past four weeks, a 5% increase from the same period the year prior.

The 35-44 age group showed the largest increase in online gambling, rising from 29% to 32%. UKAT also shared that every age group minus the 65+ bracket increased its online gambling participation.

UKAT also revealed an increase in problem gambling rates. The 16-24 age group showed the largest increase, leaping up to 1.4% from 0.4% the year prior. 

Problem gambling has been an ever-present danger for the UKGC. There were encouraging signs earlier this year when the National Lottery reported an increase in total sales and a decrease in problem gambling rates, but the recent reveal contradicts their findings.

Nuno Albuquerque, the consultant treatment lead at UKAT, is pressing the government to publish its overdue white paper on gambling reform.

we’re still waiting for the Government’s 2005 Gambling Act reform White Paper”

“Online gambling is on the rise yet again and we’re still waiting for the Government’s 2005 Gambling Act reform White Paper—the situation is becoming dangerous,” he said. “Yes, there has been political turmoil, but we really need to see the outcomes to this long-awaited reform so that we can better protect those who gamble.”

Changes at the top

The UK’s gambling market, despite its large success, is in a decisive period. There is pressure on the English Premier League and EFL to end their affiliations with betting operators, while government oversight has been polluted by the constant changing of prime ministers.

Former PM Boris Johnson said that he would hear a white paper on gambling reform, but stepped down before he could complete his promise. Replacement Liz Truss showed no interest in the matter.

The onus is now on Rishi Sunak, who was officially waved through on Tuesday morning. However, he seems more focused on other areas in the short term.

“I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government’s agenda,” Sunak said in his first comments as the country’s 57th PM. “That work begins immediately.”

According to Finder, roughly £1.27bn ($1.46bn) is gambled in the UK annually. This year’s total could easily exceed that mark with the allure of the upcoming Qatar World Cup.