UK Markets closed

Only 3% of problem gamblers in UK get help, says study

Rob Davies
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA</span>
Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Less than 3% of problem gamblers are receiving proper treatment, according to figures that lay bare the devastating effects on their finances, relationships and careers.

With the government weeks away from launching a review of industry regulations, statistics from the National Gambling Treatment Service show only 9,008 people received care in the year to the end of March 2020.

Of those being treated, 45% had racked up debts of more than £5,000, were bankrupt, or going through a debt repayment scheme. They had spent a median average of more than £2,000 in the month before receiving treatment.

More than a quarter said they had lost a relationship because of their gambling, while 12% had lost a job.

The figures illustrate not just the impact of gambling addiction but the existence of gaps in the treatment available, despite nascent government effortsto open more clinics, including one for children.

The number of problem gamblers has been estimated at 280,000 in England, according to an NHS study, but was estimated at 1.4 million in the UK, according to a YouGov survey.

The 9,008 people in treatment was an improvement on the previous year’s 7,675 but the figure means the proportion of addicts getting help could be just 0.6% if YouGov’s estimate is correct. This is far lower than the estimated 18% of people dependent on alcohol who get help.

The report found that while the vast majority of people in treatment showed improvement, 40% of those who completed treatment were still classed as problem gamblers when it finished.

A quarter of those being treated had already received treatment.

The report confirms some well-established facts about problem gamblers. Of those in treatment, 75% were men, typically in their 20s or 30s. But an increasing number of women were receiving treatment, up from 19% in 2015-16 to nearly 25% in the year to the end of March 2020.

More than half, 59%, said they had enjoyed a big win early on in their gambling.

An increasing number of people in treatment, 13%, are not gamblers themselves but “affected others”, meaning they were being harmed by someone else’s habit. Earlier this year, YouGov estimated that as many as 7% of adults, or 3.6m are negatively affected by another person’s habit.

Addicts are increasingly likely to gamble online, up from 57% to 69%, rather than in bookmakers, down from 56% to 38%.

The most popular product among gambling addicts was online slot machine games, used by 26% of them, followed by online sports betting at 25%, with fixed-odds betting terminals, third on 20%.

Marc Etches, the chief executive of GambleAware, said: “The publication of this detailed analysis, of the impact the National Gambling Treatment Service can have on people receiving support, is a significant milestone.”