• Kishan Patel

Gambling Act Review: the significance of the digital age or the significance of gambling harm

Updated: Jan 29

In December 2020, the Government announced a major and wide-ranging review of the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure they are fit for the digital age. The underlying assumption in this statement is that gambling harm has emerged as a legislative issue worth tackling due to the changes in how the population interact with online gambling products.


In this article, we summarise existing evidence to provide commentary on whether gambling harm was an issue prior to the digital age. Therefore, we hope to assess whether the Gambling Act Review should be brought about with a focus around a) the significance of the digital age or b) the significance of gambling harm on the population.


In 2019, the remote gross gambling yield exceeded the non-remote gross gambling yield for the first time in Great Britain (Table 1).


Table 1

Gross gambling yields statistics stratified by non-remote gambling and remote gambling (excludes lotteries)

Year

Non-remote gross gambling yield (n-r GGY, £m)

Remote gross gambling yield (r GGY, £m)

2008

4882.87

816.86

2009

4645.67

632.22

2010

4772.33

653.06

2011

4964.09

710.19

2012

5219.63

932.61

2013

5340.37

1134.66

2014

5492.94

2239.00

2015

5428.73

4230.76

2016

5583.59

4775.18

2017

5553.53

5355.16

2018

5429.46

5279.84

2019

4995.07

5509.18

Despite gambling harm being consistently common in the adult population (Figure 1), at the time of writing there have been no meaningful efforts to understand the significance of gambling harm on the Great British population.


Figure 1

Prevalence of gambling harm in the adult population (%) in Great Britain as stratified by low-risk harm, moderate-risk harm, and gambling disorder-harm from 2007 to 2020


To conclude, we find evidence that reflects that gambling harm had been a neglected major public health issue prior to the digital age. We suggest that a public health approach to gambling harm would recognise that the digital age is likely to exacerbate gambling harm issues. However, it is imperative that the review of the gambling act be focussed on reducing and preventing gambling harm, due to gambling harm being a major and neglected public health issue, rather than just due to issues relating to the digital age.