Gambling losses in online games are highly skewed towards disadvantaged areas – UK study | Gambling

More than 420,000 UK gamblers lose at least £2,000 a year, according to a major report which warns losses on the most addictive products are ‘heavily skewed’ towards deprived areas.

The report lays bare the punitive losses suffered by the heaviest players and raises “concern” at the low level of intervention by gaming companies to prevent them from suffering harm.

Its findings sparked fresh calls for a government review of gambling regulations, due within days, to include tough affordability checks and wagering limits on online slot machines, which allow punters to bet large sums on a single “spin”.

Researchers from the National Center for Social Research (NatCen) and the University of Liverpool have raised particular concerns about online gaming, a £4billion-a-year category that includes online bingo and casino, but which is dominated by virtual slot machines.

An estimated 129,000 gaming customers have lost at least £2,000 in a year, more than the average home gas and electricity price, according to analysis of 140,000 accounts at seven gaming companies.

In practice, the number of people suffering such losses is likely to be much higher, as the data only covers 37.5% of the UK online gambling market.

Virtual slots were a particular concern, with 50,000 people playing the equivalent of eight full days a year, losing an average of £5,000. Although the game is male-dominated overall, this group was more likely to include females.

The companies derive 40% of their slot revenue from just 1% of gamers, who have lost an average of £10,491 each on games, which have disproportionately high addiction rates.

Losses in all types of online games were “heavily skewed” towards the most disadvantaged areas, according to the report, with the poorest 20% of regions providing 25% of industry revenue.

Labor MP Carolyn Harris, who is leading a cross-party group of MPs examining the harms of gambling, said: ‘The industry is lining its pockets with the money of those who can least afford it and with the current cost crisis of life, it is even more vital. that the government take the necessary measures to immediately protect the vulnerable.

Zoë Osmond, chief executive of the charity GambleAware, which commissioned the report, warned that “gambling harms fall disproportionately on poorer communities”, with the cost of living crisis likely to exacerbate the tendency.

Campaigners have called on the government to use its ongoing review to lower online slots stakes, similar to the £2 limit imposed on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in 2019, among other measures such as stricter restrictions on advertising. The £10billion industry has lobbied against tougher regulation.

The report, conducted between 2018 and 2019, highlights the industry’s heavy reliance on a small group of big players. The top 10% accounts – those who wagered more than £4,568 a year – contributed 79% of the operator’s revenue.

“That’s why online gambling companies have been so resistant to accessibility controls,” said Matt Zarb-Cousin, of campaign group Clean Up Gambling.

“The government must impose participation limits […] as well as strict affordability controls at a threshold that protects those most affected by the cost of living crisis.

In sports betting, which is more popular but has lower average spend, researchers estimated that 290,000 sports betting accounts lost more than £2,000 in a year. The business was heavily skewed in favor of men, who accounted for 94% of around £5billion in annual earnings.

The researchers said they were “concerned” about the industry’s apparent lack of appetite to step in when customers lose large sums.

Of the big spenders, those who lose more than £2,000 a year, only a third received any intervention, usually in the form of an email, while less than 1% received a phone call, the most effective interaction.

A spokesperson for industry lobby group the Betting and Gaming Council said: “In 2020, operators made around 5 million safer gaming interactions following alerts from their diagnostic systems.

“During the pandemic, members implemented an enhanced monitoring system, to allow for increased customer interactions, which remains in place today. Last year, deposit limits were set on around 5 million accounts.

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