The cost of living crisis has not shifted gambling spend in general, according to the UK Gambling Commission, but those most at risk are betting more even as their spending power decreases.
Interim findings from research into how the escalating pressure on the cost of living in the UK is affecting gambling behaviour were published by the Gambling Commission on Tuesday (October 10).
They suggest that for most consumers, a feeling that there is a greater strain on their finances had not affected how much they spend on gambling. The same findings also held true for the amount of time spent gambling and the places where the gambling took place, including online.
Where changes were reported, gamblers were most likely to have decreased their wagering since the cost of living crisis began. This was even more likely for those that predominantly gamble online.
However, for those most at risk of gambling harm, the findings were more troubling.
Those surveyed who scored an eight or higher on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) were more likely to have increased the amount they spend on gambling, even as they feel the sting of increasing food and energy costs.
A score of eight or above on the widely-used PGSI index is defined as a “problem gambler”, meaning someone who has experienced negative consequences from their gambling who may have lost control.
The survey, conducted by Yonder, involved between 1,300 and 2,100 people in three waves between December 2022 and June 2023. More detailed online interviews with 16 individuals were conducted in August to support the survey findings, the commission said.
The regulator is currently consulting on a requirement for operators to perform financial risk checks on many customers to assess whether they can afford to keep gambling.
The plans, which were outlined in the UK government white paper on gambling reform, are controversial, and the commissions said it has so far received thousands of responses. The consultation remains open until October 18.
This latest cost of living research suggests that people believe they have less disposable income, but have not decreased their gambling spend to match, making them more likely to be caught by the government’s planned “frictionless” checks or even the more invasive reviews of a gambler’s finances envisioned by proposed regulations.
The regulator said it expects to publish further results from the research as part of its full findings in early 2024. It, along with government ministers, have also committed to a phased rollout of financial risk checks, beginning with an industry pilot programme.