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Updated: Aug 17, 2020


NB: Vulnerable persons: “The Commission does not seek to define ‘vulnerable persons’, but it does, for regulatory purposes, assume that this group includes people. 1. who gamble more than they want to, 2. people who gamble beyond their means, & 3. people who may not be able to make informed or balanced decisions about gambling due to, for example, mental health, a learning disability or substance misuse relating to alcohol or drugs.”

Gambling has been around for thousands of years; however, modern gambling has taken on so many more formats. Through the development of technology, gambling has appeared wherever it can, from TV, Mobile Phone, Laptop and even on Video Game Consoles. Commercial gambling has exponentially accelerated in the past four decades and particularly so even more recently, as increasing numbers of people are spending more time online.


It is not just the ease of availability of gambling products that have contributed to its rise. Advertising has also become more sophisticated through targeting with the use of search histories, social media profiles, and our other online activity. Therefore, it’s not surprising that in 2017 the gambling industry spent 80% of their advertising budget online – that’s £1.2bn or about 10% of the entire online advertising spend. So, if you are wondering why you see so many gambling ads, this might explain why; it’s fair to suggest that the average person may see a gambling-ad for every ten ads they see online. If you think about how many ads that are seen by the average person on a daily basis, you may start to see the problem. Data published by Clearview Research showed that nearly three-quarters (73%) of BAME children interviewed said they see gambling advertising or marketing ‘all the time’. The primary sources of gambling advertisement exposure mentioned by the children were through TV, YouTube and during football matches.

In 2017, £60m was budgeted for sponsorships. And yet more than half the top 44 English Football clubs have a betting company’s logo on their football kit’s shirt. Moreover, in the 2019/20 season, 17 of the 20 Premier League sides have a partnership with a betting firm (shirt sponsor or other partnerships). It’s worth mentioning that individuals who play the football videogame called FIFA by EA, are always exposed to these ads, and quite often it’s the younger population again who are being exposed.

Young People Gambling Prevalence

The prevalence of past-year gambling in 11-16-year olds in Great Britain has been reported at 36.4% and 35.9% for 2018 and 2019, respectively. In 2019, 31.5% of 11-16-year olds were considered non-problem gambler, 2.7% at-risk gamblers, and 1.7% problem gamblers. To summarise, more than a third of 11 - 16-year-olds have gambled in the past year. And more than 1 in 10 of these young gamblers or almost one in twenty 11-16-year olds suffer adverse health effects because of their gambling.

In 2018, 14% of 11-16-year-olds had spent their own money on gambling in the past week. In 2018, 13% who had drunk alcohol in the past week, 4% who had smoked cigarettes and 2% who had taken illegal drugs.

Adult Vulnerable Gambling Prevalence

In the adult population, the last well-designed studies for gambling-prevalence were the British Gambling Prevalence Survey (BGPS) which were last carried out in 2007 and 2010. BGPS 2007 showed that 7.3% of the adult population were vulnerable gamblers with 5.1% suffering low-risk harm, 1.4% moderate risk harm, and 0.8% problem gambler harm. Similarly, the BGPS 2010 showed that 8.5% of the adult population were vulnerable gamblers with 5.5% suffering low-risk harm, 1.8% moderate risk harm, and 1.2% problem gambler harm.

High percentages of overall vulnerable gambling and problem gambling have also been reported just outside of Great Britain, for example, 13.9% and 9.3% of the adult population were classified as vulnerable gamblers, in the 2016 Northern Ireland Gambling Survey and Isle of Man Gambling Survey 2017 respectively. Comparably, a YouGov Survey in 2019, reported 13.2% of the UK adult population were vulnerable gamblers according to the PGSI screen, with 7.2% suffering low-risk harm, 3.3% moderate-risk harm and 2.7% problem gambler harm.

Regrettably, funding for the BGPS ceased in 2010, and so subsequent measurements have been done using NHS Health self-completion form data are likely to underestimate the true extent of the numbers significantly. Furthermore, studies in the British Isles have never looked at measuring the prevalence of lifetime problem-gambling. Therefore, efforts to quantify the burden of harm in former gamblers are severely limited. Moreover, studies are yet to quantify the gambling-related harm afflicted on under 16s who gamble, and harm in individuals who suffer as a result of being around others gambling.


Although the evidence is not so clear on the exact numbers of harm from gambling, gambling-harm is a significant factor in the loss of healthy life in the UK. Sadly, gambling is increasingly being exposed to young people and too often with devastating, and long-lasting consequences.

What help is available?

RecoverMe is a mobile application that will be available to download in Mid-September. It will be the first of its kind app to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy and other support tools tailored to help those with a gambling problem. The app has been made by NHS doctors with the help of psychologists, psychiatrists, and most importantly, individuals who previously had a gambling disorder. If you’d like to be one of the first to try the app out, register your interest at

Gamblers Anonymous UK runs support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous. Help available via a Forum, Chat Room, Literature and of course most importantly a meeting finder. Meetings are available online.

GamCare offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK. It runs the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and offers live-chat options that are also available 24 hours a day.

NHS Problem Gambling Clinics For individuals aged 16 or over, living in England or Wales, and have complex problems related to gambling; you can refer yourself to specialist NHS clinics. Contact the National Clinic based in South-West London at, providing a contact number or 020 7381 7722, leaving a contact number. The Northern NHS Gambling Clinic can be contacted by e-mail at providing a contact number, a call on 0300 3001490, or a service contact form.

Gordon Moody Association offers residential courses – email or call 01384 241292 to find out more.

GamAnon A great place to get some immediate advice and support if you are affected by a gambling problem in your family.

Samaritans To help with whatever you are going through, call for free on 116 123.

Childline Help for those up to the age of 18, call for free on 0800 1111 or chat online

Written by Kishan Patel (@kishanpat_)

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