UK: Percentage of gamblers seeking help for problems related to online slots nearly doubles in five years

The percentage of gamblers in the UK seeking support for problems related to slot machines has almost doubled in the past five years, as per new data released by National Gambling Helpline operator GamCare.

Three in five (60%) people sharing their difficulties on the helpline last year cited online slots as one of the main activities that they struggled with. This number was up from 34% in 2018-19.

The data comes amid the government’s efforts to introduce maximum stake limits for online slot games, with a consultation process in place. According to the numbers revealed, 73% of 5,660 callers to the helpline last year noted that they struggled with online gambling.

The government is consulting on the introduction of limits as part of its review of the Gambling Act 2005. In July, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport requested evidence before a deadline of October 4 this year. The department is considering a stake limit of between £2 and £15 per spin and slot-specific measures for greater protection.

The number of people facing challenges with betting exchanges, which include sites that allow betting directly against other players, has increased from 0.3% to 7.6% over the last five years. Additionally, the proportion of gamblers having problems with online financial markets like cryptocurrency and high-risk trading platforms has increased from 0.02% to 2.17%.

However, the data revealed that the proportion of those who have had difficulties with online sports betting has fallen, from 34% in 2018-19 to 20% in 2022-23.

Colin Walsh, GamCare’s lived experience manager, said: “There is still a perception that gambling harm predominantly comes from betting on horses or sports events. In the past five years, we have broadly seen a trend where people often start gambling on these activities but eventually transition into other areas of online gambling, where it can be easy to lose sight of how much time and money is being spent.”

He added: “The data highlights that it is now disproportionately online slots that are the main challenge for many people who call the National Gambling Helpline. I know from my own experience – and the experiences of those in my network – how difficult this form of gambling can be, and how isolating it can feel if you find yourself caught in a negative cycle. But I also know that it is possible to get through it and that there is free help for anyone struggling with it.”