Friday, 11 March 2011

Opinion: Facilitating problems online

The UK Gambling Commission (GC) presented its British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010 (BGPS) on 15 February - the first specific data on the current state of play of the gambling market in the UK since the enactment of the Gambling Act 2005, in September 2007.

One of the most remarkable conclusions of the GC is that nearly three quarters (73%) of adults in the UK gamble. Whether offline or on the net, playing the Lotto twice a year or spending days on end at William Hill, it is a significant increase compared to 68% in 2007.

“The survey confirms that there is a significant and growing number of people who take part in gambling”, said Brian Pomeroy, the GC’s Chairman, highlighting the importance of the GC’s work and therefore supporting its existence, in response to reports published in October 2010 urging the UK Government to abolish the GC, or at least to merge it with another commission at the Department for Culture, Media and Sports.

Those who thought gambling is a man’s world, should think again. The GC found that more women than ever before have found their way to a casino, whether on- or offline. The BGPS generally shows that gambling has become more accepted and more mainstream.

The question as to whether the UK Gambling Act 2005 has contributed to this change - whether the law facilitates gambling, or in other words whether gambling facilities are too easily accessible in the UK - was raised at the press conference for the presentation of the Survey on 15 February in London.

Not surprisingly, it was ‘not the Gambling Commission’s task to answer that question’. However, the BGPS could not deny that the number of problem gamblers in the UK has gone up significantly in the last three years, from 0.6% of the adult population in 2007 to 0.9% in 2011, which means that more than 150,000 adults have become new problem gamblers since 2007. Interesting numbers if you keep the economic crisis, pay freezes and rising unemployment figures in mind.

Whilst the number of adults placing a bet might have gone up, online gambling figures are nowhere near those spectacular numbers. Even though 17% of all gamblers said they play offline as well as on the net, only 2% of the adults who gambled last year did so exclusively online. Although there are no concrete figures, the GC said many of the (new) problem gamblers fit in this category: ‘in an offline casino, someone can be stopped, his age can be verified or if he had one drink too many he can be sent away. On the net, that is impossible’.

Published previously in World Online Gambling Law Report, February 2011. Copyrights apply.