British gambling participation across multiple verticals remains steady according to the latest UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) quarterly telephone survey.
The Commission noted that National Lottery participation in the past four weeks increased significantly according to its latest survey, both regarding draws and instant games.
Perhaps most significantly, however, the survey put problem gambling at 0.2% throughout the whole of 2022 in comparison to the 0.3% recorded the year prior, whilst the low risk rate was recorded at 1.7% for the past 12 months.
However, the Commission did note that there has been a ‘significant increase’ in the moderate risk rate from 0.8% in December 2021 to 1.3% by the end of 2022.
Commenting on the regulator’s update, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: “These newly released figures are further evidence of the positive progress we have made on safer gambling and underline our urgent calls for ministers to take a genuinely evidence based approach to the upcoming White Paper.
“These figures showing that problem gambling has fallen once again will no doubt come as a profound disappointment to anti-gambling prohibitionists, who like to vastly overstate the issue.
“Their alarmist demands are not backed up by the evidence. We want big changes, but they must be focussed on this small minority who are vulnerable to harm – not the vast majority who bet safely and responsibly. We need a risk based approach which helps the vulnerable, not ruins the experience for the responsible majority.”
Additional figures saw overall gambling participation also remain fairly stable at 44% in the past four weeks, a continuation of a trend throughout 2022 which saw the stat remain below COVID-19 levels.
The UKGC noted that ‘despite signs of recovery’, overall gambling participation had not reached its pre-COVID height, but there had been a ‘significant increase’ of in-person gambling by 25% in the past four weeks.
This uptick in retail activity was particularly driven by male consumers and those aged between 25- 34, and can also be attributed to the continuing recovery of the retail sector after 2020 and 2021 lockdowns.
Meanwhile, participation in online gambling – the vertical most often cited as having the highest risks of harm and problematic behaviour – also remained ‘statistically stable’ at 27% as of December 2022.
The UKGC explained: “The data also shows that participation rates appear to be bouncing back after the pandemic for activities such as fruit and slots machines, virtual gaming machines in bookmakers, dog races, virtual dog and horse races and casino games.”
In an update which will likely come as welcome to the BGC and other gambling stakeholders, the UKGC revealed that perception of gambling has remained stable.
The number of people who view gambling as fair remains the same as in December 2021 at 30% among both gamblers and non-gamblers and the number associating the practice with criminality has fallen slightly from 42% to 41% over the past 12 months.
Lastly, the percentage agreeing with the statement that ‘there are too many opportunities for gambling these days’ declined from 82% in 2021 to 79% in December 2022, with the UKGC adding that ‘all other perceptions measures have remained statistically stable’.
Throughout the duration of the UK Gambling Act review, nearing its 27th month, the BGC has repeatedly asserted that ‘around 22.5 million people place a bet each month’, with the overwhelming majority doing so safely.
After repeated delays, the White Paper on the Gambling Act is apparently due in the spring following a departmental reorganisation which has seen Lucy Frazer take the helm as DCMS Secretary, with no junior minister currently overseeing the review.
Dugher continued: “Just under half of all UK adults enjoy a bet each month and it is clear once again that the overwhelming majority do so perfectly safely and responsibly. However, our work to raise standards across the regulated industry will continue, to keep up the momentum and build on the progress we have made in recent years.
“The regulated betting and gaming industry is determined to promote safer gambling, unlike the unsafe, unregulated and growing online black market, which has none of the safeguards which are the norm among BGC members.”
“Ministers should not drive customers into the arms of the black market by introducing blanket low level intrusive affordability checks for all punters but rather use technology to target those at risk. We welcome these figures but refuse to be complacent. Our mission to drive up standards continues.”