The Fiscal Costs and Benefits of Problem Gambling: Towards Better Estimates

This report examines the fiscal benefits and costs of gambling, with a focus on the fiscal burden to the Exchequer that is associated with harms arising from ‘problem gambling’.

Pub. Date
14 April, 2023
Pub. Type

Main points

  • While recognising the benefits, we firm up the estimates of the fiscal burden. Our research finds that the fiscal cost per person experiencing problem gambling is approximately £3,700 per year compared with people experiencing ‘at-risk’ gambling. The bulk of the fiscal cost relates to higher welfare support, in addition to increased healthcare, criminal justice costs and the costs of homelessness.
  • Our central estimate is that the number of people experiencing problem gambling is 0.7 per cent of the total population of 16 years and older living in private accommodation, which corresponds to about 380,000 people. On that basis, the total fiscal cost associated with harms from problematic gambling is £1.4 billion per year.
  • However, our calculations are likely an under-estimate of the true fiscal burden. Due to a lack of publicly available data, it has not been possible to include the costs to “affected others”, which arise from the links between gambling, debt and family breakdown, or the costs of suicide linked to problem gambling.

Given the focus of this report, we recommend a number of reforms:

  1. Recognition of the fiscal costs of problem gambling in the Government’s proposed regulatory changes as part of the Review of the 2005 Gambling Act in the White Paper, which will be published imminently.
  2. Inclusion of clear screening diagnostics for people experiencing problem gambling (PGSI or DSM-IV/V screens) in the next rounds of the Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS) and the updating of our fiscal estimates once the 2022 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) data are available.
  3. Large-scale data collection as part of the remit of the Gambling Commission, especially in relation to the association between problem gambling and “affected others” and between problem gambling and suicide.