1.3 Gambling participation in the UK
The Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating gambling in Great Britain.
Researchers at the Gambling Commission regularly collect data on gambling participation. Summary statistics for young people and adults are provided in the following sections.1 At present, the proportion of people who are classified by screening tools2 as experiencing harmful gambling is one of the main ways the Gambling Commission measures how many people are experiencing gambling harm as a result of their own gambling.
Young people and gambling
Gambling is a common risk-taking behaviour among young people in Great Britain.3 48% of 11-16 year olds have participated in gambling at some point in their lives.
In 2019, 11% of 11-16 year olds reported spending their own money on gambling in the past week. This was down from 14% in 2018.
Have you spent any money on any of the following activities...?
Figure 1: Gambling Commission statistics on young people’s gambling participation
48% of 11-16 year olds have participated in a gambling activity at some point in their lives.
Gambling and other risk-taking behaviours
More 11-16 year olds in Great Britain have gambled in the last week (11%) than have smoked tobacco cigarettes (6%), or taken illegal drugs (5%). Only drinking alcohol is more common, at 16%.
Young people who have gambled are also more likely than those who haven't to have engaged in other risk-taking behaviours, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Participation in risk-taking behaviours, people who gambled vs people who hadn't
1.7% of 11-16 year olds were classified as experiencing harmful gambling. Gambling problems were more common in boys – 2% of boys were classified as experiencing harmful gambling, compared to 0.7% of girls.
A further 2.7% of 11-16 year olds were classified as ‘at-risk’, or likely to be experiencing feelings of guilt, chasing losses, or betting more than they could afford. At-risk gambling was also more common in boys, at 3.8% of boys and 1.3% of girls.
Forms of gambling
The most common kinds of gambling were placing a private bet for money with friends (5%), fruit/slot machines (4%), National Lottery scratch cards (3%), and playing cards for money with friends (3%).
6% of 11-16 year olds have gambled online using a parent or guardian’s account. In a separate Gambling Commission survey from 2020, 9% of 11-16 year olds reported having ever personally placed a bet in a betting shop illegally, and 3% had personally visited a casino to play casino games.4
Attitudes to gambling
59% agreed with the statement that gambling is dangerous, and only 11% agreed that it is OK for someone their age to gamble.
Conversations about gambling
Only 34% of parents and guardians have spoken to their child about the potential problems that gambling can lead to. Half of young people (50%) have not been spoken to about potential gambling harms at all.
Young people most commonly saw adverts for gambling on TV (58%), social media (49%), and other websites (43%).
Young people and gambling survey 2019
Data source: Ipsos MORI Young People Omnibus 2019.
Sample: 2,943 young people aged 11-16, from 124 academies and maintained secondary, and middle-deemed secondary, schools in Great Britain.
Methodology: Self-completion online survey between 12th February and 19th June 2019
‘Gambling;’ can relate to both legal and illegal activities. Legal activity reported here includes private bets for money, playing cards for money with friends, 16 year olds playing the National Lottery and gambling that takes place on premises that do not require a gambling license.
of 11-16 year olds who gamble are with their parents at the time.
of 11-16 year olds say that someone has spoken to them about the potential problems gambling can lead to.
of 11-16 year olds have spent their own money on gambling in the past 7 days
of 11-16 year olds are classified as experiencing harmful gambling.
of 11-16 year olds are classified as ‘at-risk.'
of 11-16 year olds who gamble are have ever spent their own money on online gambling.
have ever used their parent’s account to gamble online.
have ever played online gambling-style games.
Of those who have played online gambling-style games, 47% did so via an app.
have heard of in-game items.
Of those who have heard of in-game items, 6% have bet with in-game items on websites outside of the game or privately.
Adults and gambling
Gambling is a widespread risk-taking behaviour among adults in Great Britain. 43% of people aged 16+ in Great Britain had participated in any form of gambling in the last four weeks.5 Men were slightly more likely to have gambled in the last four weeks (44%) than women (42%). If we exclude those who only participated in National Lottery draws, 29% of adults participated in other forms of gambling in the last four weeks.
Statistics in Scottish adults show that 62.8% of people aged 16+ have participated in any form of gambling in the last 12 months.6 Men were more likely to have gambled in the last 12 months (69%) than women (61%). If we exclude those who only participated in National Lottery draws, 45.5% of Scottish adults participated in other forms of gambling in the last 12 months.
0.3% of adults in Great Britain were classified as experiencing harmful gambling.
2.7% of adults in Great Britain were classified as low- or moderate-risk.
Forms of gambling
National Lottery is the most common form of gambling in adults (26%), followed by other lotteries (13%) and scratchcards (7%). 25% of adults in Great Britain had gambled online in the last four weeks, and 25% had gambled in person. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, gambling has increasingly shifted online.
Attitudes to gambling
Only 30% of adults in Great Britain think gambling is fair and can be trusted. 7 in 10 adults (70%) think gambling is dangerous for family life.
Gambling participation in 2021: Findings from the quarterly telephone survey
Data source: Gambling Commission telephone survey conducted by Yonder Consulting
Sample: Telephone survey (n=4,021 adults aged 16+)
Fieldwork: Survey administered quarterly in March, June, September and December 2021
have gambled on any activity in the past four weeks
have gambled on any activity online in the past four weeks
have gambled on any activity in person in the past four weeks
of people who had gambled online had used a mobile to gamble in the past four weeks
have ever bet on eSports (using money or items)
gambled in the workplace in the past 4 weeks
of people who had gambled online have more than one online account
of respondents have ever seen/heard any gambling advertisements or sponsorships
of respondents have seen a gambling advert on the television in the last week
of people who gamble online have been prompted to spend money on gambling by seeing advertisements
of people who gamble online have been prompted to spend money on gambling by free bets and bonuses
Perceptions and attitudes
think that gambling is conducted fairly and can be trusted
think there are too many opportunities for gambling
agreed that gambling is dangerous