Gambling studies usually focus on the negative

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Perhaps predictably, much of the mainstream media focused on the negative aspect of gambling - problem players - in reportage on the UK Gambling Commission's third Prevalence of Gambling survey published Tuesday.

Many publications both on and offline highlighted the rise over the past three years in gamblers with a potential to become problem gamblers, with Reuters probably providing the more balanced assessment.

Trade association Business in Sport and Leisure (BISL) was quick in publishing its own analysis of the numbers, probably learning from past experience how prone much of the media is to accentuating the negative when it comes to gambling.

The BISL drew attention to aspects of the study that showed:

  • Participation in gambling has increased in the UK to 35.5 million people - in the last (2007) survey 68% of the population had enjoyed a flutter - overwhelmingly on lotteries - whilst this time around this number has increased to 73%. If the lottery gamblers are removed, the number is 58% (2007: 48%)

  • Fewer than 1 in 100 (less than 1%) of the adult population has a potential or real problem with their gambling. The survey arrived at growth problem gambling figures over the three year period of between .9 or .7 of a percentage point at the high end, and .7 and .5 of a percentage point at the low, describing the growth as "not statistically significant". In the 2007 survey the number was .6 of a percentage point.

The BISL statement called for more detailed analysis of what constitutes problem gambling to refine the numbers more precisely and better address the problem, noting that any rise is a cause for concern.

  • That 78% of people who gamble do so because it is fun, and that gambling is an increasingly mainstream leisure activity in the UK

Dominic Harrison, CEO of BISL said, "The survey shows that gambling remains a fun activity for the vast majority of adults in the UK. However any level of problem gambling is a challenge which needs to be tackled. BISL is committed to continuing its work with its member companies, Government, the Gambling Commission, GamCare, GREaT, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board and the academic community to help address and deal with problem gambling.

"The gambling industry makes significant and concerted efforts to tackle problem gambling each year ranging from voluntary donations of some 5 million pounds to fund research, education and treatment to operating rigorous codes of conduct in line with the highest standards of social responsibility. The structures that now exist with the GREaT Foundation and the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board enable resources to be focused directly onto those people that need it most."

Brian Pomeroy, chairman of the Gambling Commission, told Reuters:

"The survey confirms that there are a significant and growing number of people who take part in gambling."

"However, it also indicates that a small, but probably growing, proportion of the population have serious problems with their gambling. This reinforces our determination to see that gambling regulation continues to both minimise the risk to those individuals and ensure that the majority of people can continue to gamble safely," he added.

The level of UK problem gamblers is similar to those in other European countries, the Commission said, but lower than in the United States, Australia and South Africa.

The independent survey showed that only a small proportion of punters - 14% - gambled online, with 39% of those preferring casino action, and 27% sports betting.

Growth in the number of online gamblers over the three year period has been 5%, compared with 24% on scratchcards; other lotteries 25%; horseracing 16%; and 'other events' 9%.

The one form of gambling shown to be declining in popularity was the football pools.

The most popular form of gambling remains the National Lottery, which 59% of the population had bought tickets for.

Source: InfoPowa News