NHS Estimates UK Problem Gambling at 0.3% in a New Report


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Carl Hughes Betting Expert

Updated:May 19, 2023

The NHS has published a new report into the gambling behaviour and habits of UK bettors. The report comes at a crucial time for the UK betting and gaming industry, with the UK government having just published a White Paper analysing the way gambling works in the country and focusing on all forms of betting and gaming – from landline betting shops and casinos to online betting sites and other providers of betting services. The White Paper aims to establish the problems and challenges faced by the industry, and to find ways of solving them by modernising the rules, regulations, and legislation. Problem and risky gambling are at the centre of attention of the White Paper, with the Government proposing a number of measures to tackle them.

According to the report published by the NHS, those who engage in problem gambling represent 0.3% of all bettors. Meanwhile, 2.8% are associated with “at risk” gambling behaviour. These statistics come from the Problem Gambling Severity Index results, which remind experts of the independent survey carried out by the UK Gambling Commission, and the results and insights identified through it. 0.3% is a very low number for problem gambling, and this is further evidence that the majority of users of betting sites and other betting providers enjoy the activity in a safe and responsible manner.

The UK Gambling Commission also carries out a telephone survey every quarter and this generates separate statistics. According to the latest survey, the problem gambling rate in February 2022 was 0.2%, which represented a 0.3% drop compared to the previous period of reference. These numbers are largely similar to the results of the Problem Gambling Severity Index even though both instruments work in a different way in order to calculate them. The PGSI offers 8 questions to a very broad spectrum of participants. If they answer all 8 questions with “YES”, they are considered to be actively engaging in problem gambling.  If there is even one “YES” answer to any of the 8 questions, the bettor’s usage of betting sites or other betting providers is considered to be “at risk” of gambling harm.

Further statistics revealed in the NHS report suggest that 27.8% of survey-takers participated in 4+ forms of gambling in the past year, and this makes them more likely to participate in problem or at-risk gambling. Only 4.6% participated in two or three different types of gambling, and 1.6% stuck to one gambling source. The results, looking at the past 12 months of betting and gaming by the participants of the survey (including using betting sites), show that 50% of those aged 16+ have taken part in “some form of gambling”, with the National Lottery being the most popular option. The National Lottery is one of the most popular betting sites in the UK, offering gambling activities such as Euromillions, Set for Life, Thunderball, and Lotto, as well as a number of instant win online gaming options. The National Lottery represented 34% of gambling carried out by the participants in the research, while another 15% have purchased tickets for games ran by other lotteries, and another 14% have gambled using scratch cards.

Commenting on the results, the NHS report states:

“The prevalence of at-risk and problem gambling was higher still amongst gamblers who gambled online. 18.2 per cent of individuals who participated in online gambling activities were identified as engaging in at-risk or problem gambling.”

According to the report, 36% of respondents used other forms of gambling different from the lottery. 8% took part in online sports betting, and 5% engaged in betting on horse-racing either using a betting site, a retail shop, telephone betting, or at a racing course. Land-based and online casinos represented under 5% of betting and gaming activities. 10% of adults who took part in the survey stated that they engaged in some form of online betting in the past 12 months.

The survey has also discovered that betting and gaming are largely dependent on various social factors. For example, 55% of men are likely to participate in gambling, whereas the number for women is 45%. In terms of location, the NHS reports that the North East contains more gambling adults than other region – 59%, while in the South West the numbers are the lowest – 41%. Age also has an impact on gambling, and the survey has found that people gamble more as they age, with the largest percentage being in the 45-54 age group – 61%. Thereafter, the numbers drop again, with only 45% of those aged 75+ enjoying a wager. In the age group 16-34, the number of bettors was only 39%.

The new report on problem gambling comes just in time with all parties involved in the UK gambling industry discussing the changes proposed by the Government in the White Paper. It is expected that the Government will use the figures reported by the NHS to influence any decisions regarding new regulations and legislation surrounding social responsibility, safer gambling, and Know Your Customer checks for betting sites and online betting providers.

About the author

Carl Hughes


Carl Hughes


Carl Hughes is a leading expert on sports and casino betting. Carl began his career with a BSc in Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences from the University of Birmingham before working within the industry for some of the bigger names (GVC and Bet365) and has been praised as being "a leading sports betting commentator".