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Exploring public perceptions of the gambling industry

It’s been a challenging year for the gambling sector. Earlier this month, betting firm William Hill was fined £6.2m by the Gambling Commission for lax controls, and the UK Government made promises to cut stakes on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). This followed the announcement of a 12-week consultation to better protect consumers and communities.

Reputation matters in the gambling sector

New Populus research on behalf of the Gambling Commission finds that just a third of the population believe the industry to be fair, in a report published by the Gambling Commission, which explores public perceptions of gambling.

Almost half (45%) of people surveyed had gambled in the previous four weeks – down three percentage points – a figure dropping to just a third (31%) when removing those playing just the National Lottery draw.

The annual report Gambling participation in 2017: behaviour, awareness and attitudes finds an overall decline in gambling since 2016. Those aged 25-34 and 55-64 have seen the largest increases in gambling participation, while younger age groups (16-24) have seen a decline in gambling participation in 2017.

Summary of key findings:

  • 45% of UK public participated in any form of gambling in the past 4 weeks
  • 31% of people have participated in gambling in the past 4 weeks, excluding the National Lottery draw
  • 18% had gambled online in the past 4 weeks
  • 1% had played on machines in a bookmakers in the past 4 weeks
  • 9% were identified as low or moderate risk gamblers
  • 51% have gambled using a mobile phone or tablet
  • 33% of people think that gambling is fair and can be trusted
  • 41% of people think that gambling is associated with crime

The most popular betting activity in 2017 was football (5%), followed by horseracing (4%). Only 1% had played on FOTBs; the activity which the Government has pledged to cut stakes on. However, report notes that of those surveyed, FOTB players are much more likely to gamble for fun (61%) than to try to win money (39%).

Overall, the report finds that perceptions and attitudes to gambling are more negative than in 2016, with 41% associating the activity with crime. Populus’s Max McEwan has previously explored the challenges facing the gambling sector. The evidence supports the view that the industry has a way to go in improving its reputation.


The datasets have been gathered via a combination of telephone and online surveys with people aged 16+, conducted independently by Populus.

Populus is relied upon by businesses, research agencies and government bodies as a cost-effective way of uncovering the insight they need to target even the most hard-to-reach groups in the UK and 75 other countries worldwide. Find out more by calling (0)20 7553 4149 or emailing info@populus.co.uk.

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