Gambling-related harms

Information on gambling harms



It is important to support the whole person and not just their ‘condition’.

  • Therefore, it is important to make language choices that do not embed the negative stigmas further.
  • Instead of ‘problem gambler,’ which can imply that the individual is solely responsible for their gambling, try using:
  • ‘person experiencing gambling harms’
  • ‘person being harmed by gambling’
  •  ‘a person living with a gambling addiction’
  •  ‘person in recovery from a gambling addiction’


Gambling harms in the North-East

  • In England it is estimated that 3.8% of the population are classified as gambling at elevated risks.
  • In the North East, it is estimated that 4.9% of the population (aged 16+) are at-risk gamblers, where they experience some level of negative consequences due to gambling.
  • This is the highest regional estimated prevalence of at-risk gambling in England.
  • Further impacts on affected others can be challenging to measure, but they too experience gambling related harms.


Gambling harms and the commercial determinants of health

  • The 2005 Gambling Act made an industry favourable environment, with ‘light touch’ regulation.
  • Current regulation fails to protect people from harmful products and practices of the gambling industry.
  • ‘Responsible gambling’ is often coined by industry which blames ‘problem people’ rather than a problem industry.
  • The gambling industry is able to cast doubt on gambling related harms and create entire knowledge gaps.
  • Harm is often dismissed because industry fund research, education and treatment.


Highly profitable products

  • Gambling sits alongside other industries selling highly profitable but harmful products, such as tobacco and alcohol.
  • Great Britain’s gambling industry had a total gross gambling yield of £15.1 billion from April 2022 to March 2023.
  • Current discourse emphasises the £3billion paid to His Majesty’s Treasury annually, however the gambling industry has been noted to not create wealth, rather it redistributes from the deprived and vulnerable to the very rich, by extracting money from its customers.
  • The business model is built on increasing the amount of money that customers lose through tactics to get people to start and continue gambling.
  • 86% of gross online betting profits come from just 5% of customers.


Harmful gambling or harmful gambling products?

  • All forms of gambling carry a level of risk and can be harmful. Industry invest in research to design games to be addictive as possible to maximise profits. Gambling formats such as online slots and online casino games are an example of this. The following elements of design increase the addictive nature of these gambling forms:
    • Speed of play, some games can be played every 2.5 seconds
    • Stake sizes, many online games have unlimited stake sizes, higher stake limits are linked to higher rates of harm
    • Losses disguised as wins, these are designed to impact the brain’s reward function
    • Near misses, creating a feeling that a win was close, encouraging further play
    • Misrepresenting random results, whereby games are designed to convince the person gambling to believe they can guess the outcome of the random event.


Gambling is all around us

  • Online gambling is available 24 hours a day.
  • The five largest online betting operators in the UK send an average of 78 tweets per day and a study from 2021 found that 63.3% of adults (over 25) reported seeing gambling ads on social media at least once a week, this was 72.4% for 18-24 year olds
  • Direct marketing can be sent through text, apps or emails, often offering free spins.
  • Data shows people suffering harm are 9 times more likely to be offered free bets than people who are not, and those people receive an average of seven offers a week.
  • It is estimated that a gambling logo is shown every 10 seconds during a football match.
  • All of this advertising and marketing can make it even harder to avoid or recover from gambling harms.


How gambling affects the brain

Industry designs gambling forms to be addictive for the brain:

  • A gambling win releases a feel-good chemical in the brain called dopamine.
  • Frequent gambling means the brain gets used to the dopamine, making the winning feeling difficult to achieve.
  • Some gambling products, like roulette, make the player feel they are winning, even when they’re not, encouraging the gambler to keep playing to reach the winning feeling.


Young People and Gambling

  • An estimated 55,000 children aged 11-16 in the UK are addicted to gambling.
  • 26% of 11-17 year olds had spent their own money on some form of gambling activity in 2023.
  • Early gambling exposure is a risk factor for being impacted by gambling harms.
  • Playing games that combine gambling and gaming is associated with increased risk for youth.
  • Approximately 80% of students have participated in gambling, with nearly half doing so to make money.


Gambling and Gaming

There are many links between gaming and gambling, which inadvertently expose children and young people to gambling practices. Examples of these include:

  • Skins – Decorative virtual weapons, equipment or characters acquired in a game. Skins can be sold for real money on third party sites and can be used to place bets on e-sports and casino style games.
  • Loot boxes – A virtual box contains random items such as a rare skin.
  • People who are spending more on loot boxes are more likely to migrate or initiate gambling.
  • People buying loot boxes had more severe problem video gaming and increased risks of gambling harms.
  • Card packs – Contain randomised in game items that are not visible to the player before they are opened. They can be purchased by in-game currency.