A study by the UK Gambling Commission into British consumers’ participation in gambling has revealed that around one in six adults in the country gambled online in 2016. The comprehensive report examines ‘behaviours, awareness and attitudes’ in relation to gambling and also explores how gambling activity varies across different demographics.
The data was collected by market research agency Populus through a mixture of telephone and online surveys of people aged 16 and over. The study shows an overall increase in gambling activity in the UK last year, with 48% of respondents having participated in at least one form of gambling in the past four weeks. This is up 3% on the previous year, although the figure drops to 33% if the National Lottery is excluded.
This increase is likely to have been fuelled by the two major sporting events of the year, namely UEFA Euro 2016 and the Summer Olympics in Rio, which led to an increase in sports betting both online and in person. Political events like the EU referendum in the UK and the presidential election in the United States were also popular among punters.
As online gambling increases its share of the market, the study also reports a rise from 15% to 17% in the number of respondents gambling online. Put another way, this means that around one in six adults in the UK gambled online last year. Again the figure is slightly lower if the National Lottery is taken out of the equation, but participation in the lottery is decreasing while betting on sports events is going up.
The results of the survey suggest that online gamblers tend to be loyal to a small number of brands. The average online punter has three different betting accounts, down from 3.5 in 2015. Almost half only have one account, while 11% have more than five.
Unsurprisingly, the UK Gambling Commission reported a rise in gambling using mobile devices. Although laptops remain the most popular device of choice for punters at 55%, they were down six points on the previous year’s survey, while desktop PC fell by four points to 34%. Smartphones, on the other hand, were up six points to 29% and tablets increased by five points to 21%.
When it comes to gender, men were more likely to gamble on their phone whereas women preferred using their tablet. Overall, the number of people using mobile devices to gamble has increased by 10%, suggesting that British consumers are increasingly moving from PCs and laptops to phones and tablets for their gambling, as they are with many other activities. Younger age groups were more likely to gamble on their mobile than older groups.
Despite this shift towards mobile, the home is still where most gambling takes place, with 97% of respondents saying they do it at home. This figure is the same as 2015 and broadly consistent across all age groups, although those in the 18-24 category were most likely to gamble in multiple locations. When looking at gambling outside the home, men were more likely to do so at work (13%) while women preferred gambling on their commute (10%).
Looking at the demographics of who’s gambling, a larger proportion of men gamble than women, with 53% of men and 44% of women reporting participation in some form. In terms of age, although those aged 35 to 64 are more likely to gamble than younger age groups, the 16-24 and 25-34 brackets saw the biggest increase from last year (5% and 10% respectively).
This is likely to be partly down to last summer’s sporting events, as well as the increased accessibility of gambling on mobile devices. Youngsters were also revealed to be the age group most susceptible to advertising from gambling companies. 68% of 18-24 year-olds said they had been prompted to place a bet by advertising, whether it be on TV, online or on social media, a figure which gets lower when moving up the age groups.
The research also looked into the issue of problem gambling. Only 0.7% of participants identified themselves as problem gamblers, up slightly from 0.5% the previous year. A further 5.5% identified themselves as being at low or moderate risk. Meanwhile, only 6% of online gamblers have ever self-excluded. This is unchanged from the previous year but the number of people who are aware of the option to self-exclude has increased by eight points to 37%.
Finally, the survey examined consumers’ attitudes towards the gambling industry and gambling policy. It seems the majority have a negative perception, with 69% agreeing that gambling is dangerous for family life and 39% associating gambling with criminal activity. Only 34% believed the industry is fair and can be trusted, a fall of 5%.
78% of respondents felt that there are too many opportunities to gamble, but at the same time, 67% agreed that people should have the right to gamble whenever they want. Nearly a quarter agreed with the notion that it would be better if the activity was banned altogether. James Green, programme director at the Gambling Commission, commented:
"This report paints an important picture of how consumers in Britain choose to gamble – identifying emerging trends and potential risks to the public. We are also now able to provide a more detailed snapshot of online behaviours, which featured for the first time last year. Effective protections come from strong evidence. Our research puts us in a powerful position to better understand the needs of gambling consumers."
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