Gambling is Betting on Trouble

Posted on Thursday 20th September 2007

A leading expert on problem gambling at the University of Birmingham has found worrying trends and warned against complacency.

Professor Jim Orford, at the School of Psychology, co-authored the Gambling Commission’s report which is published today, and says: “The results are not reassuring.” He has found that the prevailing swell of public opinion is against further liberalisation of gambling.

In the largest review of British gambling carried out to date, over 9, 000 people - representative of the general population - aged 16 years and over, were surveyed. The review was intended to gauge society’s engagement with gambling. A questionnaire was conducted, designed to pick up on problem gambling habits, and for the first time an evaluation was made of the population’s attitudes towards gambling, and its effects for individuals and society.

The survey follows on from the first national survey carried out in 1999-2000, which Prof Orford also co-authored.

Professor Orford remarks that one of the most notable changes over the last seven years has been the appearance of new forms of gambling, such as internet gambling, playing virtual games like roulette, keno or bingo and the so-called fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in bookmakers. He says: “It is worrying to note that the newer forms of gambling seem to be most strongly related to problem gambling.”

This is the first time that attitudes towards gambling have been assessed among the general British population, and, says Professor Orford, it is these results that are most telling: “The main conclusion is that British public’s attitudes towards gambling are, in general, more negative than positive.”

Participants were asked to state whether they agreed or disagreed with 14 statements, half of which were phrased in a positive way, half indicating a negative stance. 64% agreed that ‘Gambling is a fool’s game’, whilst only 10% disagreed. Conversely, 16% agreed with the statement ‘Gambling is a harmless form of entertainment’, whilst 49% disagreed.

The overriding negativity of the general population’s attitude towards gambling was tempered only when it came to their views on outright prohibition. 42% disagreed that ‘It would be better if gambling was banned altogether’, with only 20% agreeing. 53% agreed that ‘People should have the right to gamble whenever they want’.

Professor Orford said: “The finding that public attitudes towards gambling are largely negative is significant because it is the first time such results have been available and they do appear to run counter to the assumptions that the Government has been making about public opinion on the subject.

“The 2005 Gambling Act was based on the idea that negative attitudes towards gambling were a thing of the past and that the British public wanted greater accessibility to gambling and more freedom to choose where and when to gamble on what.

“While the majority appeared to reject total prohibition, one interpretation of the findings is that the British population is on the whole against the further liberalisation and spread of gambling.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The survey was commissioned by the Gambling Commission and carried out towards the end of 2006 by the National Centre for Social Research.

Further media information

Prof Jim Orford is available for interview. Please contact Anna Mitchell in the Press Office on 0121 414 6029 / 07920 593946.