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British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007
by Max Drayman

You may have heard of the "British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007" recently released by the British Government, but chances are that you've neither seen nor are likely to brave its 186 pages of charts, graphs and observations.

That's understandable but it's also a shame because the BGPS report is actually quite informative.

The British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 (BGPS07) is a study of the prevalence, nature and effects of gambling on the British population.

It follows a similar survey conducted in 1999 and is primarily intended as a benchmark against which future studies—one is already planned for 2009/10—will be compared.

The intent of course, is to allow the British government to measure the impact that the Gambling Act 2005 has on gambling behaviour and attitudes.

Conducting such a survey is of particular importance in the UK today because there have been considerable changes in the gambling landscape in Britain in the last seven years.

For example, there has been much publicity around Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), the increased availability of internet gambling sites, the rise of internet poker and the increase in advertising expenditure within the UK gambling industry.

Gambling has been continually in the news and the new Gambling Act —which reached its full enactment milestone this past September 1st—has stimulated much controversy and criticism.

Politicians and lobby groups often base their platforms on "common" knowledge about the (presumed) evils or benefits of gambling, but a report like the Survey is a much better reflection of reality, since it is based on actual studies of the general population; their gambling experiences and their attitudes towards it.

Given this, we thought a quick tour through the document would be worthwhile.

The BGPS07 is divided into an introduction, five areas of focus, each comprising a chapter of the document, and the Appendices which provide supporting material for the preceding chapters.

We'll leave the Introduction and Appendix material for the interested reader to pursue on their own while we tackle the five main chapters.


The Survey begins by looking at the population in general to determine who is gambling, how often, in what activities, at what venues and so forth.

Here are some highlights of that material:

- 68 percent of people aged 16 and over (about 32 million adults) said they participated in one or more gambling activities in the past 12 months compared to 72 percent (about 33 million adults) in 1999.

- There was a significant reduction in the proportion of the population who reported gambling in the past seven days, from 53 percent in 1999 to 41 percent in 2007; nearly all activities showed a small reduction, or no change, in levels of participation over this period.

- 5 percent of the general population had participated in six or more activities in the past 12 months.

- The British National Lottery is 3-4 times more popular than any other single gambling activity; for quite a high proportion of the population, their only gambling activity is the National Lottery.

- 6 percent of the general population participated in some form of online gambling in the past year; men are 3 times more likely to gamble online than women (men 9 percent, women 3 percent).

- Bingo was the only gambling activity which men were less likely to play than women (4 percent vs. 10 percent).


- Gambling prevalence was greatest among the younger age groups and decreased with advancing age. For example, with slot machines the prevalence fell from 26 percent for those aged 16-34, to 2 percent of those aged 75 and over.

- Certain types of gambling prevalence ran counter to the overall age-based pattern: lotteries, for example, had the lowest popularity among those aged 16-24.

- Respondents who were single, were somewhat less likely to gamble than their married counterparts. Compared with 1999, gambling prevalence had decreased significantly among those who were (or had been) married or living as married.

- Prevalence of gambling was significantly higher among respondents whose ethnic group was White, almost twice that of other ethnic groups (Asian or Black).

- Participation in any gambling activity in the past year increased with household income.

- The survey confirmed the general supposition that those with higher education are less likely to gamble than those with only a high-school certification, but the actual numbers are more informative here: 6-in-10 of those with a university degree or higher had gambled in the last year compared with 7-in-10 of those with high-school level education.

- Those with high-school level education were about 50 percent more likely to participate in lotteries, scratchcards, bingo, slot machines, football pools and FOBTs than those with a university degree. The reverse was true for online gambling.

- Smokers and drinkers were more likely to gamble, and to gamble more often, than non-smokers and non-drinkers. Generally speaking the heavier a drinker one was, the more likely they were to participate in most forms of gambling, often as much as 4 times more likely as compared to modest or non-drinkers.


- The prevalence of problem gambling in the population was 1.0 percent for men and 0.1 percent for women (0.5 percent overall). The vast majority of people (99.2 percent) were classified as “non-problem gamblers”.

- Prevalence was somewhat higher among younger age groups, highest among young men aged 16-24, 25-34 and 35-44.

- The most common gambling problem was “chasing losses”: 6.8 percent of men and 2.9 percent of women reported having done so in the last 12 months.

There have been a number of “problem gambling” surveys conducted around the world in the past few years from which the Survey offered the following summary:

The problem gambling rate ranges from 0.2 percent of the population in Norway, through to 5.3 percent of the population of Hong Kong. The problem gambling prevalence rate in Britain is similar to that of Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. The rate is higher than Norway and lower than South Africa, the U.S., Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong. There has not been a national survey in Australia since 1999, when the ... prevalence rate was 2.1 percent. More recent regional studies ... found prevalence rates of Queensland: 0.83 percent (2005); Victoria: 0.97 percent (2003); Tasmania: 0.73 percent (2005) and Northern Territory: 0.64 percent (2005).


- Unlike 1999 where there was a marked association between problem gambling prevalence and age, in 2007 age was not significantly associated with problem gambling.

- Men were 8.03 times more likely to rate as a problem gambler than women.

- Single respondents were more likely to be problem gamblers (1.3 percent) than those who were married (0.2 percent).

- There was an association with educational achievement, in that respondents with high-school level certification or below were more likely to be problem gamblers than those who had professional or degree level qualifications: 0.9 percent and 0.2 percent respectively.

- Problem gambling prevalence varied by ethnic group: the chances of being a problem gambler were 3.55 times higher among those from Asian/Asian-British backgrounds than those who were White.

- Problem gambling was most prevalent within the small employer and self-employed worker categories.

- There were no significant differences in problem gambling prevalence by levels of household income.

- Problem gambling prevalence ranged from lotteries at the low end (1 percent) to spread betting at the high end (14.7 percent). Online gambling and online betting were somewhere in the middle (6 and 7 percent respectively).

- The strongest factor associated with problem gambling was having parents that regularly gambled and were problem gamblers as well.

The Survey concluded that problem gambling is significantly associated with being male aged 54 years or younger, having parents who regularly gambled (particularly if they had a problem with gambling), being single, separated or divorced and perceiving your health state to be below average.

Furthermore, there is a significant association with being of Asian or Black background and having fewer educational qualifications.


The average person was inclined to believe that people have a right to gamble whenever they want, and rejected a total prohibition on gambling.

That said, the average view was that gambling was more harmful than beneficial for individuals, and for society, and should not be encouraged.

The most favourable attitudes to gambling were shown by those under 35, who were heavier drinkers and gamblers.

The least favourable attitudes to gambling were shown by over 55s, widowed, describing themselves as ethnic, non-gamblers and those with a parent or close relative with a gambling problem.

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