Gambling activity skewed towards “economically disadvantaged” regions, study finds

By Ralph Trayfalgar, Updated:

According to a new study from responsible gambling organization GambleAware, online gambling activity was found to be skewed heavily to players from “economically disadvantaged” regions.

Researchers from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) and the University of Liverpool analysed data from nearly 140,000 online gaming accounts across sports betting, poker rooms, and online casino sites in the UK. This data included information collected from seven of the industry's most prominent operators between July 2018 and June 2019.

The findings showed that 29 percent of online gaming accounts were found from these economically weaker regions, as opposed to more well-off regions accounting for only 13 percent of online gambling accounts. 

The study also found that 25% of customers’ online gambling losses came from the 20% most economically disadvantaged areas. This finding is made more grim by the fact that the majority of players with high spending habits also come from these regions. 

As a direct consequence of this, the majority of the cash generated by the online gambling comes from a very small number of players who rack up the biggest total losses. In all, the "top 10 percent" of gaming accounts were responsible for 79 percent of the money generated by operators.

By comparison, people living in the 20 percent of the country with the least amount of poverty were responsible for 15 percent of the losses.

Findings to spur Gambling Act reform

“This research supports the growing body of evidence that gambling harms are falling disproportionately upon the poorest communities,” stated GambleAware CEO Zoe Osmond on announcing the release of their study. “The current cost of living crisis and the economic fallout from the pandemic will only make this worse.”

The lead analyst of the paper, Professor David Forrest of Liverpool University, stated that the findings are as good a time as ever to properly understand the online gambling industry as it stands today, which has been seen as sorely lacking as regulatory reforms have been slow to respond and adapt to changing trends.

According to Dr. Sokratis Dinos, Director of Health at NatCen, the study offers a new level of insight into online gaming that has never been seen before, which could have a marked influence on the long-awaited reform to the Gambling Act of 2005, which has been delayed for several months.

The government continues its work into releasing a white paper on new regulations on the gambling industry; however, the data from the UKGC suggests that there may be an improper distribution of resources, and analysts believe a stronger focus could have been placed on online gaming in particular. 

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