A study has shown that people from low-income areas are more likely to place risky and long-odds bets, especially on sports betting and slots.
The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), in collaboration with the University of Liverpool, conducted the research, which clearly shows that the most popular areas for spending on betting were pre-match soccer, in-play soccer, and horse racing. Slots and casino games made up the bulk of gaming spending.
More than half of the accounts that lost more than £5,000 were found to be used for slots, and researchers calculated that the 5% of players who lose the most money actually keep online operators afloat. Those who lost more than £5,000 were much more likely to play for hours on end; indeed, they accounted for 70% of sessions in which people played for more than three hours straight. During those sessions, gamblers would spin the slots more than 30 times per minute, although the maximum spin limit has since been reduced to 24 times per minute.
The study highlights the differences between casual and problem gambling; 90% of gaming accounts either lost or won less than £500 over the year, suggesting a level of control. However, more than 164,000 people lost more than that in a single session, while around 47,000 accounts lost more than £5,000 over the course of the year.
Troublingly, poorer areas of the country were overrepresented in these statistics. Those in lower socio-economic regions were more likely to make high-risk bets or engage in high-intensity gaming sessions.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, an advocate of gambling reform, said: “This all reaffirms my thoughts that those most vulnerable are groomed and exploited by an industry entirely motivated by profit.”
When it comes to safe gambling, the results are simply not good enough. Even though safe gambling rules are implemented by every licensed casino, there are still many accounts that lose more than £2,000 per year. The study found that just over a third of these accounts had received a “social responsibility” contact within the same year, while fewer than 1% received a call from the operator.
It seems to be incumbent upon the individual to recognise their own problems, with 21.5% of gamblers setting their own deposit limits and 2.3% opting for the more drastic approach of self-exclusion.
With the pandemic creating a financial crisis and forcing us into lockdown, many are turning to online casinos for recreational fun and the chance to earn some money. While the Gambling Commission issued rules at the beginning of pandemic, it is yet to be seen whether these regulations will have a positive impact and reduce the number of players who are betting more than they can afford to lose.