Figures released on Tuesday said 25.7% of 4,018 people aged 16 or over surveyed had gambled online in the past four weeks, up from 23.8% over the same period in the previous year and up from 18.5% in the previous five years.
The survey, which asked respondents about gambling on four occasions between June 2021 and March 2022, also showed 43% had gambled in general in the previous four weeks, which was a drop from the pre-pandemic participation rates of 47% in March 2020.
Analysis of the Gambling Commission’s data by the UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT) shows that the biggest increase in overall gambling was within the 16-24 age group.
Their analysis shows that in the year to March 2022, 34.7% of 16 to 24-year-olds surveyed had gambled in the past four weeks, an increase of 5% compared to 29.7% of the same age group last year.
Another age group which has risen above pre-pandemic gambling rates is the 55 to 64-year-olds, rising from 48.7% in March 2020 to 49.8% in March 2022. They also show the highest increase in online gambling.
The most popular form of online gambling was sports betting, in particular football, outside of the National Lottery and other lotteries.
UKAT’s analysis of the data also revealed that the rate of those in the moderate risk of addiction category has also risen, with women at moderate risk of addiction jumping from 0.4% in March 2021 to 0.9% this year.
The Gambling Commission’s report also reveals that in-person gambling rates have increased again by 3% from last year, indicating signs of recovery since the pandemic.
The commission suggested the increase in in-person gambling was driven by a return to sports betting, horse betting, bingo and fruit and slot machines post-pandemic.
Nuno Albuquerque, consultant treatment lead at UKAT, said: “What today’s report shows us is that as gambling participation rates rise, so does the rate of those at moderate risk of gambling addiction. Clearly, for a lot of people, gambling isn’t a harmless hobby. We see the damage gambling does to people’s lives.
“Online gambling in particular is dangerous as it is too easy and discreet to participate in. We join the chorus of voices who say that this country’s gambling laws are in urgent need of reform. Bigger conversations are necessary especially around affordability checks and a complete ban of gambling advertisements.
“We believe the Government’s white paper is in its final stages and we are keen to see what comes of it.”
The UK Addiction Treatment Group offers 24/7 confidential support for gambling addiction.