Regulator Survey Shows Online Gambling Rise

The Gambling Commission has published its latest participation survey, which illustrates current gambling trends in the UK. The survey shows a significant rise in online and mobile gambling, alongside a smaller rise in gambling overall. However, the survey also highlights changing public attitudes to gambling. Public trust in the industry is still down and a growing number of respondents now associate gambling with crime.

Hand holding pen, pointing at survey graph printouts.

The latest figures from the Gambling Commission’s participation survey show that online gambling is still on the rise. ©Lukas/Pexels

National Lottery Still Favorite

Every year, the Gambling Commission publishes its annual gambling participation report. The report is designed to keep track of public perceptions and interactions with gambling. The 2020 edition of “Gambling participation in 2019: behavior, awareness and attitudes” has just been published, and it highlights significant changes in the industry.

The survey examines gambling behavior in UK consumers throughout 2019. Information is collected via quarterly surveys, carried out by Populus. These take place online and on the phone. As well as participation, behavior and awareness, the report also includes data on problem gambling. The “NHS Digital Health Survey for England” provides this information.

According to this year’s report, gambling participation has remained stable overall. 47% of those older than 16 who took part in the survey had gambled over the last four weeks, up only 1% on the previous year. This is positive news for the industry, which has recently faced media scrutiny and regulatory uncertainty.

Most gamblers are aged from 45 to 54, with this group accounting for 53% of all participation. The National Lottery was found to appeal to a younger demographic, being most popular with those aged from 25 to 34. The National Lottery is still the most popular form of gambling in the UK, while sports bettors favor football and horse racing the most.

Online Market Growth

Online gambling has seen the most notable rise. 21% of respondents said that they had gambled online at some point in the previous four weeks. The previous year’s report placed this number at 18%. The most popular way of gambling online is still through mobile phones, which saw a 6% rise on the previous year.

50% of participants said that they use mobile phones to gamble online. As a result of this growth, laptop gambling dropped by 6% to 38%. Mobile gamblers are generally the youngest demographic of online gamblers. Over the four weeks before being questioned, 76% of participants aged 18 to 24 had used a mobile phone to gamble online. In contrast, only 14% of online gamblers over the age 65 used a phone to wager in the preceding 4 weeks.

The rise in mobile use amongst gamblers may be partly responsible for another interesting development. While 95% of online gamblers still limit most of their activity to the home, there has been a rise in online gambling during office hours. Gambling online in the workplace rose by 3% on the previous year, to 15%.

56% of online gamblers stated that they are registered to more than one account, with the highest number of accounts belonging to younger players. 20% of online gamblers aged 18 to 24 have over five online accounts. Participants were also asked about eSports, with most of the 6% saying that they had bet on them being under the age of 34.

Changing Perceptions

Over recent years, the gambling industry has faced an increasing amount of scrutiny from the media, campaigners and MPs. As a result, regulations have grown stricter and the Gambling Commission has doled out penalties on operators, such as Mr Green. These developments have had an impact on the general public’s perception of gambling. The last decade has seen a substantial decline in public trust.

This year’s report did show some stability though. 29% of the survey’s participants believe that “gambling is conducted fairly and can be trusted”. The previous year, 30% of respondents agreed with this statement. This shows that the actions to improve accountability and consumer protections in the gambling industry may be slowly mending its public image.

Trust is one of the most important factors for gamblers when they are choosing an operator. Alongside having the best odds, a fair and trustworthy reputation was reported as a top factor, with 24% of participants choosing it as their top priority.

43% of participants associate gambling with criminal activity, against 38% the year before. The belief that gambling addicts would steal in order to support a habit was the most common association. Many of the participants also said that gambling opportunities have become too frequent. While 73% believe that gambling is “dangerous for family life”, 60% said that people should be allowed the right to gamble whenever they wish.

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