Vice Squad
Saturday, September 22, 2007
British Gambling Survey

New gambling regulations went into effect in Britain this month. What will be their impact? To make it easier to eventually know the answer to that question, a pre-reform survey of gambling prevalence was commissioned; the report (182-page pdf) was released last week. (Less hefty versions can be found at this Gambling Commission webpage; also available there is the 1999 survey.)

Some of the findings: about 2/3 of the British adult population gambled in the previous year (quite similar to US gambling rates), and more than half participated in the National Lottery. The percentage of adults who are pathological or problem gamblers is about 0.6, lower than in the US (where it is estimated to be about 3.5%). Internet gambling is not very popular, with only about 3% of the population playing casino-type games or poker online; including web-based betting with bookies brings the total up to about 6%. Richer people were more likely to gamble than were poorer people, but college-educated people were less likely to gamble than those who had not earned a college degree. Like everyone else, Britons are completely wacko when it comes to estimating their gambling losses. (The usual story is a massive underestimate of net losses.) They recognize that they did not win the lottery in the past week. That is a good sign. But they recalled amazing past-week success in other types of gambling. From page 40 of the report:
Participants reported nine gambling activities on which they claimed there
was an overall net win over the past week. These were scratchcards (71 pence),
bingo (91 pence), slot machines (£1.13), horse races (£1.49), fixed odds betting
terminals (£3.27), casino table games (£17.22), online betting with a bookmaker
(£4.89), online gambling (£10.72), and private betting with friends (£3.42). In
general, the smaller the number of participants gambling on the activity, the
greater the overall net win claimed.
I suppose that the smaller the number of participants, the fewer the witnesses.

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