People in the most deprived areas of Great Britain are more than twice likely to participate in gambling games online than those from the least deprived areas, a study suggests.
The Patterns of Play report (pdf) published on Thursday found that 29.2 percent of gaming accounts came from Britain’s 20 percent most deprived areas while only 12.9 percent of accounts were from the 20 percent least deprived areas.
Although players from more deprived areas tended to play with a lower stake, there was “a strong tendency” for them to be more active than those in less deprived areas, data showed.
Analysing operators’ Gross Gambling Yield (GGY), the study found the former contributed over a quarter (25.2 percent) of all customer losses compared to 15 percent by the latter.
The “first of its kind” study, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) and University of Liverpool professors David Forrest and Ian McHale, analysed data from 139,152 online gambling accounts provided by seven major operators between July 2018 and June 2019.
It includes both gaming accounts such as bingo, poker, slots, and live and virtual casino games, and online betting on events such as football matches and horse races.
The 20 percent of most deprived areas were most overrepresented in the typically low-spending Bingo game, providing 39 percent of the players. The game was also popular among women, who made up 62 percent of the online players. But women were not as interested in casino and poker games, which had less than a quarter of female players.
“The concentration of players in deprived areas was also particularly high for female slots players. The most deprived areas contributed disproportionately to GGY from bingo and slots but in casino games and poker revenue was fairly evenly spread across the deprivation range,” the study said.
It also said although betting, primarily on sports such as football and horse racing, was the most popular, gaming was associated with a higher probability of incurring heavy losses.
Online betting relied heavily on a small number of betters, with the top 10 percent of gambling accounts contributing 79 percent of operator revenue.
Data showed areas of different levels of deprivation contributed “relatively evenly” to operator revenue from betting, online betting outside football and horse racing was “particularly skewed towards the most deprived areas (even if levels of engagement were typically low).”
The study said online bettors with the largest losses over the year were disproportionately likely to be male and their average age was around 40, with a significant number having addresses in deprived areas, but researchers said they may be more wealthy individuals in more deprived areas.
Over the year, an estimated 290,000 accounts lost more than £2,000 in betting, but it only represents 2.2 percent of the accounts. It was also estimated that 4.4 percent of accounts lost more than £1,000 over the year, and 0.7 percent lost more than £5,000.
Forrest, who led on analysis of the account data, said: “This study offers us a globally unprecedented opportunity to understand the online gambling landscape. In contrast to betting, we see that participation and customer losses in gaming were concentrated in more deprived areas and a higher proportion of customers had losses in the thousands of pounds over the year.
“Whilst political debate and campaigns have focussed on the risks around betting, our research shows it is important to raise awareness of the gambling harms associated with online gaming. Gaming, in particular slots games, is much larger in terms of total online spending by British players, and analysis of customer account data throws up more red flags indicative of potential harm from gambling.”