If you’re a gambler residing in the United Kingdom at the moment, then the likelihood is that you’ve heard of the proposed changes to the industry. With maximum stakes being reduced on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) already, and the potential for the same to be applied to online slot games, it’s only normal to wonder if there’s really a need for it. The Government claims that the reduction was done after figures revealed that the number of problem gamblers in the UK was on the rise, and the maximum stakes were cut as a way of reducing this.
With calls for the banning of credit cards at online casinos, a reduction in the maximum stake on online slots and more, how much does online casino gambling actually contribute towards the problem gambling figures in the UK?
How Much Does the UK Spend At Online Casinos?
Gamblers in the United Kingdom spend over £14 billion every year on casino games, sports betting, poker, the National Lottery and more, according to figures released for the period between October 2017 and September 2018. Yet, most of the money spend actually goes on online gambling, with a total of £5.6 billion registered for that same time period, equating to roughly 38.8% of the total. That includes all kinds of online betting, including bingo, casino games and, of course, sports betting online.
Yet, as far as online casino gaming is concerned, reports suggest that only about 4% of people in the UK who consider themselves gamblers, actually participate in it. Figures were actually much higher for offline horse racing and other sports betting, as well as for private betting and land-based slot machines. The question remains though, as to whether or not that 4% can be held largely responsible for the number of problem gamblers in the UK today.
Problem Gambling Figures on the Rise?
The latest Health Survey for England shows that roughly 13% of the country’s population actually participated in online betting via a bookmaker last year. That being said, the number of people who had gambled overall had taken a drop to 53% altogether.
Yet, the same survey measured problem gambling rates of the country, and this was done through two alternative measures. Those methods were the DSM-IV and PGSI, and both of them recorded rates which were below the standard accepted rate of 0.7%. Men were found to be more likely to have problems than women, and the PGSI method also suggested that around 0.8% of the population could potentially be classified as “moderate risk” gamblers.
Even though this is the case, rates of people gambling (both offline and online) have fallen in recent years. Comparing 2018’s results to those of 2016 prove that, with 56% of people over 16 participating in gambling in the latter year. Even that was down from the previous year’s 62% figure.
According to The Royal College of Psychiatrists, gambling has become a problem for about nine people in every 1,000, accounting for around 1% of the population. That being said, the charity known as GamCare, says that it has seen an increase in the number of calls it has received for help. From 2017-18, it took just below 30,000 calls from those seeking advice and assistance with gambling problems. As it happens, most of the callers said that they were specifically struggling with online gambling.
Young People Gambling
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) published its 2019 Young People and Gambling report recently as well, which had some of its own figures on display regarding gambling amongst minors. This looks at gambling tends surrounding 11-16-year-olds, and as of 2019, the figure has reduced from 14% to 11%. Of the number of youths interviewed, 7% of them explained that they had participated in online gambling at some time in their life. Meanwhile, 12% said that they have played an online gambling-style game, with 47% of that amount stating that this was done via a downloadable app.
Altogether, 1.7% of those 11-16-year-olds are considered to have a gambling problem in the United Kingdom, while 2.7% are said to be at risk. The first figure remains at the same level from 2018, while the second has risen from 2.2%.
Can Online Casinos Really Be Considered at Fault?
Even though there has been an increase in the number of people calling GamCare for assistance with online problem gambling, official figures from the UKGC show that problem gambling rates are actually declining. This information comes even though participation in gambling in general has risen by a significant amount.
Rates of problem gamblers in the UK for the last year were highest amongst those in the 16-24 and 25-34 brackets. However, online casinos have not gone through any sort of reformation within the past year. While the reduction in maximum stakes on FOBTs, which are land-based machines, has taken place, this has no effect on the games on offer online at casinos. If figures are already falling, which could be due to the introduction of new forms of self-exclusion and extra help being available as well, then online casinos potentially couldn’t be very much to blame for the problem gambling scene.
Granted, many anti-gambling campaigners have spouted off about there needing to be more done about gambling addiction within the United Kingdom. And you have to remember that it was these campaigners who forced the government to rethink the stakes on FOBTs in the first place. There’s no denying that there’s the potential for gambling addiction to be reduced even more should maximum stakes on online slots be reduced as is being campaigned for at the moment by MPs.
Yet, can online gaming and casino sites be considered at fault for figures from previous years regarding gambling addiction? Of course, they can be held responsible for a small portion of it, but the likelihood is that someone who is addicted to gambling will likely find a way to access it, online or not.