UK Gamblers Number a MillionPublished September 5, 2007 by OCR Editor
The study shows a rise from the former numbers, collected in 1999. It also reports of a rise in problem gamblers, which makes the new study critical in more than one way.
The UK Gambling Commission is up and running. With the newly revised and timely Gambling Act implemented in full as of September 1, the Commission is now the leading authority in all matters online gambling concerned.
One of its first measures was soliciting a survey, the first of its kind in eight years, carried out by Birmingham University academics in cooperation with the National Centre for Social Research. The official release is due later this month, but the British press has already come out with a few headlines and the industry as a whole has made noteworthy commented.
The main news that comes out of the survey is the number of people based in the UK who regularly gamble online. Nearly a million regular online gamblers are active in Britain. It makes for a third of the 3 million gamblers in Europe. With each gambler spending an average of 1,000 GBP over a year's time, the industry rolls a billion GBP.
But the survey asked another question - no less important - regarding problem gamblers. While eight years ago, problem gamblers made for a fragment of a percent of the adult population, estimated to be between 0.6 and 0.8 percent, it is now estimated at nearer 2 percent of the adult population. This makes for 300,000 people, by all means a phenomenon to cope with.
The Gambling Act was generally welcomed with open arms. It was and is still viewed as a liberal policy, a move towards accepting the casinos and certainly far from the US policy of banning them altogether. But is that really the case?
Some industry insiders suspect that the intention, at the end of the day, is the contrary, i.e. that the industry "will seize on any increase [in problem gambling to clamp down on the industry or hit it with punitive tax rises," as one unidentified industry executive was quoted saying.
The industry further fears that certain factors opposed to online gambling - be they land based casinos operators, some of whom saw their plans to establish as many as 16 casinos across the country scrapped by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and other conservative elements - would influence policymakers and help water down the Act even more.
Prophecy Given to Fools, and Yet
Although it is said that prophecy was given to fools, we will try and paint the future in general lines (and limited guarantee). The industry employs 200,000 people in the UK. It also accounts for 1.2% of the country's GDP. The Gambling Act is a way to maintain the positive contribution to the economy and keep the gambling in check by protecting the users.
Though continuity was lacking until now, this is the main contribution the Act may bring to the industry. With this established, gamblers too will have better knowledge and comfortable access to help-lines and other organizations that help problem gamblers. That the number of problem gamblers is up is no surprise; the industry was still young at the time of the last survey. The new numbers would instead serve as a base-line by which future levels of problem gambling could be judged and goals set.