High Street bookies exts
Exts Computer Science building
Whether it’s a trip to the bookies, or a flutter at the races, gambling is a traditional pastime in the UK, one made more popular by the National Lottery and its host of charitable causes.
But gambling is growing rapidly among the population, sharply dividing opinion. Many think the Gambling Act 2005, which comes into force this September, is likely to spread it even wider, despite its expressed commitment to “socially responsible gambling”.
UK gambling turnover soared from £2 billion to £50 billion between 2001 and 2005, and online gambling is responsible for much of that growth.
At the University of Birmingham, researchers have been studying online gambling with mixed feelings:
While established gambling businesses like bookmakers have used the Internet to make betting easier, it’s the newer entrants to the market that are experiencing the most rapid growth aided by the spread of broadband technology:
SOT Dr Russell Beale, Leader Advanced Interaction Group, School of Computer Sciences, University of Birmingham
“ The big gambling companies now have online versions of their betting shops so you can place a bet on any sporting event or political events or things like that In terms of the poker companies, poker being the biggest of the online games really they’re targeting a lot of new players a lot of people who might not have played before but now because the internet has become a source of entertainment as well as knowledge and information people are looking to that for some of their leisure activities. “
: GVs online poker sites
Close up of Jim Orford reading book
What concerns many is that the very availability and ease of access of online gambling in particular, is encouraging new groups of people to take up gambling, and some of them will be vulnerable to addiction.
Research suggests that in 2004 there were over 370,000 gambling addicts in the UK alone, and when online gambling companies are allowed to advertise more widely next month, will more people fall into that trap?
Another University of Birmingham academic, Professor Jim Orford, is an expert on addiction, who has been consulting on a national review of online gambling, and he finds the trend worrying:
SOT: Jim Orford, Professor of Clinical and Community Psychology,
University of Birmingham
“As a psychologist what I’m concerned about is the addictiveness or potential addictiveness of gambling. That from a public health point of view it is what some people call one of the ‘dangerous consumptions’ it is something that can develop into something very strong and serious habit which is difficult to break in other words an addiction. And we think, we don’t know yet but we think the internet might be one of the more addictive forms of gambling. That’s why I’m so concerned about it.”
Online poker sites
When Poker first gained wider popularity through television, it was played by experts, but when it was translated to the online world it’s appeal took off, and is proving particularly popular, at midday on a random weekday last week there were over 32,000 players logged on to just one Poker site.
02:46 SOT: Dr Russell Beale
“I think what it means for the industry is there’s a much wider market that can be involved and obviously with games that require a community of players like poker the more people you get involved the better. For the customers it means that there’s a much wider selection of skills and abilities of people they can play against so they can have games against the worlds best players or just play against their friends.”
Online poker sites
While some might see this as a democratisation brought by market forces, others point out that its now much easier for people to play whether or not they can afford to, and it’s the instantaneous “buzz” of these games that make it hard to stop playing.
03:23 SOT: Professor Orford
One of the particular dangers of internet gambling is that it looks like it’s going to be one of those forms which theories suggest is going to be most addictive because it allows continuous rapid play, so like casino table games, fruit machines you learn whether you’ve won or lost very quickly and when you’ve learned whether you’ve won or lost you can re-stake very quickly. It’s this continuous rapid play which we think makes something particularly addictive.
Online gambling sites
Online its hard to control who has access, so the fear is that familiarity with the internet may lead younger people to get involved, and gambling is continuing to spread.
04:02 Dr Russell Beale
“you can gamble through interactive television. Mobile devices are certainly being looked at as the next phase of gambling. The idea is that in odd moments of down-time people will have a quick game of cards or a quick bet on something”.
Professor Orford reading book
Close up on book
Professor Orford has been consulting on a national survey on gambling addiction over the last year
04:22 Professor Orford
Basically what we were doing was asking people about what they gambled on and how much they were gambling in the last year and particularly in the last week to get a detailed snapshot of their gambling. A number of standard questions about whether people think they have a gambling problem or not and a number of questions about peoples attitudes to gambling in society.
Online gambling site
These results will be published at the end of September, and only then will we see whether by liberalising the gambling industry, the government has itself taken a gamble with public well-being.