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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
'Surprise' over gambling figures
Slot machine
The report examines attitudes to and the scale of gambling
The internet and other new forms of gambling have not led to an increase in people having a flutter since 1999, a Gambling Commission study has found.

In fact, due to a drop in the National Lottery sales, the numbers of people gambling fell from 72% in 1999 to 68%.

Commission chairman Peter Dean said more than 99% of adults who gambled did so harmlessly but there were still 250,000 "problem gamblers" in Britain.

Gordon Brown's spokesman said problem gambling had to be tackled.

The Gambling Prevalence Study questioned 9,003 people between September 2006 and March 2007 about 17 types of gambling - from scratch cards to casinos.

'No increase'

It looked at attitudes, the popularity of different types of gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling and followed a similar study in 1999.

Mr Dean said they had been expecting an increase in the number of gamblers, and the amount of problem gambling.

"It was something of a surprise, and a relief too," he told the BBC.

National Lottery draw - 57%
Scratch cards - 20%
Horse races - 17%
Slot machines - 14%
Other lottery tickets - 12%
Private betting - 10%

"There have been more forms of gambling available in the intervening years - fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) in betting shops, online gambling and so forth and the overall figures for online gambling are not up.

"There are a significant number of people who do gamble online, we've been tracking those, but as I say the overall result is there is no increase at all in problem gambling since the last survey."

The National Lottery remained the most popular form of gambling, but the amount of people taking part had dropped from 65% in 1999 to 57% in 2007, the survey suggests.

Betting terminals

Participation in all other types of gambling, excluding the lottery, had risen from 46% in 1999 to 48%.

Only 6% of those questioned had used the internet to gamble in the previous year, 3% had used fixed odds betting terminals and 4% gambled in a casino.

Problem gambling, measured using two systems, remained at the same level as in 1999 - 0.6% - equivalent to about 250,000 people.

I don't know what the big deal about gambling is really. Nearly everyone has vices, it might be smoking, drinking, gambling or whatever
Adrian Mugridge, Chester

This is higher than in Norway, but similar to Canada and New Zealand and lower than Australia and the US.

Professor Peter Collins, director of the Centre for the Study of Gambling, said he would like to see the number of problem gamblers being "a good deal lower", but said measuring them was an "inexact science".

"There are very severe problem gamblers whose tragic situation is quite as grave as any other addiction, but there are people with much less serious problems," he said.

Gambling Act

But the Conservatives said one in seven people who took part in "spread betting" were considered problem gamblers and argue new forms of gambling are creating more addicts - yet are most likely to be promoted on TV, under the Gambling Act.

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "This report is two years too late. All the gambling legislation has now passed through Parliament with little prospect of serious amendment.

Spread betting - 14.7%
FOBT - 11.2%
Betting exchanges - 9.8%
Online gambling - 7.4%
Online betting - 6.0%
Dog racing - 5.2%
Casino table games - 5.2%
Bets with bookmakers - 3.9%
Football pools - 3.5%
Bingo - 3.1%

"The horse has well and truly bolted from the gambling stables."

The report will be used to measure the effects of the new Gambling Act, which came into force on 1 September, and brought casinos, bookmakers and online betting under one regulatory body.

It also made it easier to advertise casinos and online gambling sites on the television.

'No complacency'

The government said the report's findings were not "grounds for complacency" and it remained focused on protecting children and vulnerable people.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said a review will be carried out into the funding of gambling research, treatment and public education - currently supported on a voluntary basis by the gambling industry.

While the report shows that problem gambling still only affects a small minority of people, it does remain a serious issue
Prime minister's spokesman

In July Mr Brown said the government's plan to use super-casinos to regenerate run-down areas would be reviewed, amid fears it could make gambling addiction worse.

On Wednesday his spokesman said: "While the report shows that problem gambling still only affects a small minority of people, it does remain a serious issue and something that has to be addressed.

"The prime minister said in July that the issue relating to a super-casino is whether or not this is the best way of meeting our regeneration objectives.

"He is obviously sceptical about that."

That review is due to be published later this autumn and the spokesman said the Gambling Commission's report would be an "important consideration".

Experts explain the fall in gambling

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