Gambling problems on the increase in Britain

Fruit machine The survey found 13% had a spin on a slot machine last year

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Nearly three-quarters of Britons engaged in gambling last year, a survey has concluded.

The survey of 7,756 people done for the Gambling Commission found the amount of betting has increased to levels last seen in the late 1990s.

The proportion of what the regulator calls "problem gamblers" has also increased.

The report estimates that 451,000 people have issues with betting, a rise on previous surveys in 2007 and 1999.

The analysis, entitled The British Gambling Prevalence Survey, was drawn up by experts at the National Centre for Social Research.

It found the number of people gambling in the UK is on the rise.

Nearly three-quarters of adults - 73% - gambled in the previous year, a rise from the 63% who were betting at the time of the last report in 2007.

The vast majority of people told the survey authors they did it "because it's fun" and because there was a "chance of winning big money".

People in Great Britain are gambling in a wide range of ways, they discovered, but the analysts found that only a relatively small proportion of gaming was happening online.

The most popular way of having a flutter continues to be the National Lottery, with nearly 60% of UK adults buying a ticket last year.

By contrast, the report found football pools have dropped massively in popularity over the last decade, from 9% of the population predicting score and no-score draws in 1999 to just 4% in 2010.

"Problem" gambling

The statisticians used two different and complex systems for measuring if a gambler had a "problem".

But they looked for a variety of behaviours ranging from "chasing losses" - making more bets in a desperate attempt to win back money already lost - ranging up to robbery to fund a gambling habit.

Gambling Commission chairman Brian Pomeroy said that a "small but probably growing" proportion of the British population has serious problems with gambling.

He said it reinforced the commission's determination to regulate gambling to "minimise the risk to those individuals and to ensure that the majority of people can continue to gamble safely".

But the Salvation Army, which has lobbied against the gambling industry in recent years, called for government action to halt its expansion.

There were now too many problem gamblers in the country said a spokesman, and British society was in danger of being "de-sensitised to the problems that gambling can bring."

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