Study Says Online Gambling Growing in Great Britain

The habits of gamblers in Great Britain are moving more toward betting online, a study carried out on behalf of the Gambling Commission has revealed.

The survey, prepared by the National Center for Social Research, shows online betting and betting exchanges now account for 8% of all gambling activities in the country. A similar study conducted in 1999 had shown no apparent betting activity via the Internet.

The growth of online gambling has surpassed the levels seen in other areas. Great Britain’s largest bookmaker, Ladbrokes, handled more than £607 million (U.S. $1.21 billion) in the first half of this year via its online “eGaming” department, which was only created in 1999.

The Internet betting exchange Betfair has also enjoyed phenomenal levels of business since its launch in June 2001, with annual revenues—largely commission payments—exceeding £140 million (U.S. $280 million) a year.

Reasons for the growth of Internet betting include the better value that can be gained compared to many traditional betting methods, and the ability to gamble from the comfort of one’s home or office. Advances in online security and greater reliability of sites have also promoted sustainable growth.

Gambling on horse racing has also enjoyed strong growth in recent years, with 17% of the adult population now betting on the sport, compared with only 13% in 1999, despite an explosion in the number of alternative gambling products available.

As well as revealing the different wagering activities of the population, the study suggested fears of a growth in irresponsible betting appear to be unfounded, with 0.6% of the adult population classifying themselves as problem gamblers, a figure similar to that of 1999.

The findings also revealed no real increase in the number of people participating in some form of gambling, with 68% of the population (32 million) having gambled in the last year, compared with 72% (33 million) in 1999.

The publication of the survey coincides with the arrival of the government’s Gambling Act and the establishment of a new Gambling Commission, which is responsible for regulating betting in the United Kingdom. The key aims for the new body include ensuring gambling is conducted fairly and openly, protecting the vulnerable, and keeping crime out of the industry.

A similar survey is scheduled in 2009-10 to assess the impact of the Gambling Act and the success of the Gambling Commission.