Gambling addiction fears as new research shows 600,000 OAPs started betting online during the Covid pandemic
- Research shows 625,000 people over the age of 65 have gambled online during the lockdown
- About 13.5 per cent of Brits who bet online are over the age of 65
- In September 2019, that age group made up 8.7% of online gamblers
- The increase coincided with the lockdown, when street betting shops were closed
Pensioners in Britain are risking becoming a generation of gambling addicts after more than half a million have turned to online betting during the pandemic.
Research shows that 625,000 people over 65 have gambled online during the lockdown – a bigger jump than for any other age group.
A Royal College of Psychiatrists report revealed that about 13.5 per cent of Britons who bet online are now over 65 – compared to 8.7 per cent in September 2019.
The rise in potentially harmful “silver surfers” has coincided with the lockdown, when street betting shops were closed, and isolated elderly residents spent more time online.
Research shows 625,000 people over 65 have gambled online during the lockdown – a bigger jump than any other age group (stored image)
The report, based on data from the Gambling Commission, found that betting on the network has risen among all age groups in the past two years since the pandemic began.
“The shift to online gambling is partly due to the closure of physical betting shops during the pandemic as well as limited opportunities to conduct other activities due to the closures,” she said.
“Online gambling brings potential risks due to its 24/7 availability, particularly when people are more at home and may face financial uncertainty.”
The latest data showed that around 12.1 million adults in England gambled online in 2020 – 12 per cent more than before the pandemic.
The analysis by the RCP found that the greatest rise was in people over 65, followed by middle-aged adults, with many people gambling online rather than in-person.
Over the past two years, about 341,445 people in the 45- to 54-year-old age group have bet online, while the proportion of in-person betting has decreased from 23 to 17.5 percent.
Meanwhile, the number of 16-34-year-olds who gambled online fell by 307,000 over the same period.
Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones of the RCP said: “The pandemic has shaken our lives in many ways, and this data shows that many older people are gambling more online than they did before the pandemic began.
Not everyone who gambles will develop a gambling disorder, but some will. Gambling disorder is a disease that, if left untreated, can lead to severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones of the RCP said: “The pandemic has shaken our lives in many ways, and this data shows that many older people are gambling more online than they were before the pandemic began.
Borko Borisic, Head of Policy at the Royal Society of Public Health, said: “These latest figures from the Royal College of Psychiatrists represent a very worrying increase in online gambling activity.
Online gambling is a hidden public health crisis, and it is particularly alarming to see this increase even greater in the 65-plus age group, who are particularly likely to be socially isolated, and to experience higher levels of gambling harm.
Unfortunately, this news was not surprising. We already know that the pandemic has led to an increase in home consumption of other potentially harmful products such as alcohol, a known risk factor for harmful gambling activity.
Mental health is also severely affected, which greatly increases the potential for harmful gambling activity.
To ensure that this alarming increase does not continue beyond the pandemic, the government must ensure that online gambling legislation is fit for purpose. In particular, policies that address the ease of access to online gambling should be implemented, including: affordability checks, stock limits on online gambling products, and increased data sharing to identify at-risk gamblers. The upcoming gambling law review presents a vital opportunity to address this issue.
Since 2019, the NHS has included gambling disorder in its long-term plan, and there are a number of clinics available across the country to offer treatment to anyone who needs it, including family members.