Public Health England (PHE)’s evidence review on gambling-related harms estimated the annual cost of harmful gambling to society to be between £841 million and £2.2 billion, or approximately £1.27 billion. Further research is needed to determine costs attributable directly to gambling-related harm rather than those associated with people who are problem or at-risk gamblers.
PHE also conducted a rapid review on the impact of COVID-19 on gambling behaviour and associated harms. The review found consistent evidence that overall gambling participation reduced during the initial COVID-19 lockdown period (March to June 2020), and limited evidence to show any new patterns of harms associated with gambling during COVID-19 restrictions.
The Gambling Commission’s official statistics for the year to March 2021 show that the overall participation in gambling declined over the wider period of COVID-19 lockdowns, largely due to the closure of land-based gambling venues for much of the past year. The proportion of respondents participating in any gambling in the past four weeks fell from 47% in the year to March 2020 to 40% in the year to March 2021. Online gambling participation increased to 24% (up 3 percentage points), whilst in person participation decreased 12 percentage points to 23%. However, the increase in online gambling was largely linked to National Lottery play; excluding National Lottery draws, overall participation online increased marginally from 16.5% to 16.9%.