The UK Gambling Commission has revealed that in the year to December 2020, nearly 24% of adults aged 16 and over had gambled online in the previous four weeks, rising by 3% since 2019 and by 6% since 2016.
The data shows that for all respondents, online gambling participation rates are increasing, but there are significant annual rises in women and those aged 55 and over.
The percentage of women who had participated in online gambling in the last four weeks when surveyed during 2020 shows a rise from 13.5% in 2016, to 17.3% in 2019 and then jumping to 20.6% in 2020, the highest rate for women participating in online gambling on record.
Similarly, the percentage of those aged 55-64 and participating in online gambling has also rocketed over the years, from 16.5% in 2016 to 19.6% in 2019 and rising to 27% during the year of the Covid crisis.
Those in the eldest age bracket surveyed – 65+ – are also taking to online gambling more than ever before. Back in 2016, 11.3% of those surveyed had gambled online in the previous four weeks, rising slightly to 12.7% in 2019 and then jumping to 17.4% in 2020.
Playing the National Lottery online has been the biggest way in which people gambled online during 2020, followed by other online lotteries and online bingo.
Unsurprisingly, the rate of in-person gambling participation dropped significantly. Data shows that 26% of adults had gambled in person in the previous four weeks, 9% less than 2019 with the Coronavirus crisis and the closing of all retail gambling venues being closed.
Today’s report also reveals how public perceptions of gambling have changed over the past decade.
Experts at the UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT) – who analysed today’s report – reveal that in 2020, more people than ever (16%) agreed that on balance, gambling is good for society. This is up from 12.5% of those surveyed the previous year.
Nuno Albuquerque, Head of Treatment for the gambling addiction treatment providers at UKAT commented: “Today’s report by the Gambling Commission reflects people’s gambling behaviour and attitudes towards gambling during some very difficult and testing months of last year. It is therefore unsurprising to see that rates of online gambling participation are increasing and a shift in attitude towards gambling use in society, as more time was spent online as a form of ‘escapism’ than probably ever before during the multiple lockdowns.
“What concerns us is that for some, online gambling can be very addictive as it is so readily available and cleverly enticing. These sites are not built to encourage gambling once or twice; they offer ‘free’ money or bets, they advertise other games to try and they nudge you to come back and gamble again if you’ve stopped for a short period of time.
“And their methods clearly work. The report shows that more women and those aged 55 and over are gambling online than ever before. We’d urge these people in particular to monitor their behaviour and to be open and honest with family and friends about their ‘hobby’ so that if an unhealthy relationship with online gambling develops, they have the support network in place to help them to stop.”