People with online gambling problems spend an average of £98 a day, place up to 90 bets and are more likely to gamble in the middle of the night, according to a new report.
That compares with just £14 among those not considered to be at risk, who typically place between two and seven punts on a day when they bet, the charity Gamble Aware said.
“Problem gamblers in the study were more likely to place bets between midnight and 4am, and to gamble throughout the week, rather than mainly on a Saturday, when non-problem gamblers do most of their gambling,” the industry-funded charity said.
Young, unmarried men who are unemployed but looking for work are considered most at risk of developing a problem.
Gamble Aware said the latest findings would enable online betting companies to identify and protect individuals at greatest risk of developing an addiction, but it stopped short of recommending ways in which companies should intervene.
Campaigners said companies had been too slow off the mark in addressing the issue of problem gamblers.
Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP for Swansea East, said: “It is an inconvenient truth for online gambling companies that such a huge proportion of their revenue comes from problem gambling. So it’s little wonder they have moved so slowly when it is simply not in their commercial interest to do anything meaningful to prevent addiction.”
The government is due to publish a report in October on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and limiting the spread of gambling ads on television. However, the review does not cover online gambling.
Harris added: “Non-problem gamblers wager £14 when they bet, whereas problem gamblers bet an average of £98. On this basis, a huge proportion of revenue is derived from problem gambling. This is unsustainable, so the government must look at the maximum stakes online once they finally reduce the maximum stake to £2 on FOBTs in October.”
Remote gambling accounts for about 40% of the £15bn-a-year UK industry. More than 10,000 online customers of companies including Ladbrokes, Bet365, William Hill and Sky Betting and Gaming allowed access to their data as part of the study.
Gamble Aware said the research, carried out by the accountancy firm PwC, would enable companies to intervene immediately at the point a player begins to gamble in a risky way on a computer, mobile or tablet. Options being considered include freezing accounts or sending instant pop-up messages to individual customers.
“Almost everyone has a smartphone in their pocket these days, so we have access to gambling websites any time, anywhere,” said Marc Etches, chief executive of the charity. “It’s essential the necessary advice and protection are made available to those who need them, wherever and however they choose to gamble.”
Earlier this month the industry regulator, the Gambling Commission, warned that more than 2 million people in the UK are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction, adding that the government and industry were not doing enough to tackle the problem.
Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the online industry trade body, the Remote Gambling Association, said: “The remote gambling industry is committed to making sure there are suitable safeguards in place for all online gamblers and particularly those at most risk.”
However, Matt Zarb-Cousin, spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said the latest report amounted to lip service and more needed to be done.
“The online gambling’s business model is predicated on people becoming addicted so work on spotting problem behaviour is going to amount to window dressing. I would like to see online gambling brought into the government review.”
Gamble Aware, which funds the UK’s only dedicated gambling addiction clinic in London, said the next stage of the review, to be published in early 2018, would include recommendations on possible interventions, once companies had carried out live tests.
Source: The Guardian