Data suggests huge spike in gambling addiction in Britain

In 2011, the government cut the £500k research grant that was used to fund the British Gambling Prevalence Survey (BGPS). Instead, questions on gambling would be inserted into Health Surveys.

This meant that the 2010 BGPS was the last gambling-specific prevalence study to be carried out. The results, published in 2011, showed a 50 per cent increase in the rate of problem gambling, from 0.6 to 0.9 per cent of the population.

Given the amount lost to gambling firms now stands at over £14 billion a year, a 60 per cent increase since 2010, and the majority of online gambling profits come from people who are either problem gamblers or at-risk, it is inconceivable that the rate of problem gambling has remained constant since a decade ago.

New data from YouGov, reported in the Guardian, corroborates this. Their report puts the rate of problem gambling at 2.7 per cent - amounting to 1.4 million people, with a further 3.6 million people impacted negatively by someone else's gambling.

Professor Patrick Sturgis, who until February was a trustee of the industry-funded charity GambleAware, caveated that the sample YouGov used may have overestimated the prevalence rate, arguing that it is likely to be "closer to" the 0.7 per cent rate disclosed in the Health Survey. However, he does not rule out that it could be "somewhat higher" than that.

So it is fair to conclude that it is likely the rate of problem gambling has been underestimated by Health Surveys. The decision to cut the BGPS after 2010 was a mistake and it should be reinstated by the Gambling Commission immediately. These alarming findings from YouGov have only added to the need for an accurate picture of the scale of gambling harm in Britain.