More gamblers than ever are opting to "ban" themselves amid a rise in online betting in the United Kingdom (UK), according to online gambling operators. The operators report more than a million requests from customers asking to close their accounts in 2017 – compared with 618,000 the year before.
The figures have come out as operators prepare to offer a national scheme giving gamblers the option to exit from all forms of betting. From spring 2018, online gamblers who want to stop can "self-exclude" themselves by registering with a single website.
At present, gambling enthusiasts have to contact each company they hold an account with and place a request to be excluded. The move enables those who may have opted out of gambling with one operator to stop gambling with the others. All operators in the UK will be required to offer the scheme, called Gamstop.
The Gambling Commission has disclosed that almost £4.7bn was bet online in 2016-17. The commission had earlier predicted more than half of all gambling would be online "in the near future". Gambling spends online have increased by more than £428 million in 2016-17 compared with 2015-16 while spending on the National Lottery has fallen to £438 million. In total, spending on gambling has increased by £249 million in the UK.
According to the commission, about two million people are either problem gamblers or at risk of problem gambling. The statistics come from a 2015 research that revealed 6.4% of gamblers were "at risk" of turning problem gamblers, while 1.4% of gamblers already had a problem.
The top five activities with the highest proportions of problem gamblers in the United Kingdom are spread betting, betting exchanges, poker in pubs or clubs, bets with a bookmaker on an event (offline) and playing machines in bookmakers.