According to a seminal study analyzing data from millions of bank customers, people who wager relatively small sums are more likely to experience financial hardship and unemployment, while heavier gamblers die earlier.
In a report believed to be the largest of its kind in the UK, scientists tracked the links between gambling spending and the problems of Lloyds Banking Group's 6.5 million customers over a seven-year period.
They found that the more someone gambled, the faster the chances of missing a mortgage payment, taking out a payday loan, or being pursued by debt collection agencies, while there were longer-term links to job loss and mortality.
The study, led by academics from Oxford and Warwick Universities, will heighten concerns about the volume of gambling company profits coming from people in financial difficulty. The industry is already under review by the government, which could lead to tighter regulation.
The study gives the most detailed insight yet on how the £ 14.5 billion the industry receives each year from punters can lead to harmful results in the real world.
The likelihood of financial damage increased with each level of gambling, but was “noticeably higher” once someone spent 3.6% of monthly spending on it, which is £ 91.37 for the average household.
At this spending level, gamers were one-third more likely to miss a mortgage, 22% more likely to use an unplanned overdraft, and 19% more likely to take out a payday loan.
Those who spent £ 1 in 10 gambling, making them the top 10% of the highest spending customers in the industry, were twice as likely to miss a mortgage payment as someone who did not bet at all.
The researchers also tracked gambling spending over a seven-year period and identified increased rates of unemployment, disability and death at the highest levels of gambling.
While the results do not indicate that gambling causes these results, research shows that spending more on betting is often associated with negative results. Longer-term monitoring also showed that gambling spending can escalate very quickly, but usually declines more slowly.
The industry has repeatedly defended its impact on society by referencing numbers from the NHS biannual digital health surveys, which show the levels of addiction. The surveys have shown that less than 1% of the population are addicted to gambling, with the proportion remaining relatively stable. However, the numbers are based on player self-reporting, who studies have shown to be unreliable about their own spending.
They also offer no insight into the actual impact of their spending, while the study by researchers from Oxford and Warwick relies on actual transaction data to show whether gambling correlates with financial hardship.
Peter Tutton, director of policy at StepChange, said while most customers identify other causes of their debt, “The financial impact of problem gambling makes people more vulnerable to problem debt. We hope that the gambling sector and the government will work hard to break this link by making sure that adequate safeguards are in place. "
Labor MP Carolyn Harris, who leads a bipartisan group of MPs dealing with gambling-related harm, said the study showed that government scrutiny must lead to a much tougher gambling regime. "These results are the most conclusive evidence yet that the gambling industry benefits from the vulnerable and those in dire financial straits," she said. "The government needs to get this toxic industry under control and regulate it properly."
The industry's lobby group, the Betting & Gaming Council, said its members had recently put in place security measures such as: B. "Customers can completely lock themselves out from gambling, close tens of thousands of online accounts and encourage banks to allow customers to opt out." Using their cards for betting transactions and implementing the ban on the use of credit cards for betting. "
The BGC had previously released a report that estimated the number of users of black market betting websites had doubled to £ 2.8 billion since last year. It warned that if the UK cracks down on regulated operators, the problem could get worse.
An earlier version of the same research, conducted by accounting firm PwC on behalf of companies like William Hill and Ladbrokes owner Entain, was criticized by the Gambling Commission as "excessive".
"I would risk my monthly wages in a few days"
Adam Wood initially played football but lost more when he turned to horse racing. Photo: Adam Wood
Adam Wood, a 23-year-old from Sheffield who works in an optician, has seen firsthand how excessive gambling can lead to financial problems. He had played football a bit before he was 18 but started placing larger bets after getting into horse racing.
“I understood the sport pretty well and picked winners. It came to me of course, ”he said. “That made me think I should bet more.
“I had a good streak, but when I started betting more, that streak came to an end. It was confusing to me because I used the same methods and tactics. Instead of stopping, I got more aggressive and up the ante by playing in races I didn't know about.
"I was dying to get the money I had lost and the situation was spiraling out of control. I had £ 7,000 savings and I screwed that up in a couple of weeks. I would be risking my £ 1,500 monthly wage in a matter of days.
Soon Adam began taking out payday loans from companies like Wonga, Sunny, and Satsuma. “The loans started out pretty small, £ 200 or £ 300. The loans were my way to get out of this mess and get my expenses back through the month, but I'd gamble every single penny. I repeated it 13 or 14 times and the interest was phenomenal.
“My parents had to help me pay off the outstanding loan, around £ 7,000 or £ 8,000. You saved me, for which I am very grateful, and I am paying you back now.
“My credit is in ruins for the next seven or eight years. I've added up all of my accounts and I've come down about £ 80,000 in four or five years. This is a car, this is a house deposit. It should have been mine for the future and it wasn't. "
Adam has now gone 10 months without placing a bet.