The results of the health survey show that problem gambling is on the riseby Matt Zarb-Cousin , Derek Webb / August 31, 2017 / Leave a comment
NatCen’s analysis of the 2015 Health Survey, published last week, showed the problem gambling rate at 430,000—up from 280,000 in 2012—with 2 million at risk of addiction. Both the Gambling Commission, conscious of implicating itself in this failure, and the bookmakers, described the rate as “static.” But such a dramatic increase in just three years should alarm us all, and the data are timely if they are to inform the government’s review into Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) due in October.
FOBTs, located in betting shops, permit bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds on casino games, the most popular being roulette. Last year the machines generated £1.8 billion, more than half of the profits made by betting shops.
While the Gambling Commission conceded that “more progress is needed to tackle problem gambling,” this falsely implied that some such progress has been made to date.
The Gambling Commission, a regulator, is to advise the government on the impending FOBT review. It should look closely at the results of last week’s survey, and note that the rate of problem gambling among FOBT users stands at 11.5 per cent compared to a rate of 1.4 per cent among all gamblers. It should also note that 43 per cent of FOBT users are either problem or at-risk gamblers, so it is simply not in the commercial interest of bookmakers to reduce harm when they derive so much revenue from customers experiencing it. Based on the British Gambling Prevalence Survey in 2010, Professor Jim Orford et al found that over 40 per cent of the time spent and money lost on FOBTs came from problem and at-risk gamblers.
The coalition government cut the funding for the British Gambling Prevalence Survey, and questions on gambling were subsequently incorporated into the Health Survey. But due to methodological differences, comparisons cannot be drawn between the two. So it is disappointing to see the regulator using data from the British Gambling Prevalence Survey to claim problem gambling rates are “static” when over three years, in only the time between the two Health Surveys have been published, it has increased by 150,000. Incidence of problem gambling—ascertaining how many new problem gamblers there are— is a much more useful metric than prevalence, particularly if questions are asked about the primary mode of gambling, and…