Gambling Among Over-65s Spiking In Britain

  • Gambling among Over-65s in Britain is up almost 50% since 2019.
  • In 2019, 8.7% of over 65’s gambled, but in 2021, that number is up to 13.5%.
  • This is an increase of about 4.8 percentage points - a big jump.

LONDON - Senior citizens are more at risk for problem gambling, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Great Britain.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists analyzed British Gambling Commission data and came to the conclusion that 2021 saw an enormous increase in the number of retirement-age people gambling.

In Great Britain alone, 620,000 people over the age of 65 gamble online at least one time per month, according to the data.

This growth in online gambling among over-65’s is unmatched by growth in gambling among any other age cohort.

From 2019 to 2021, the group of over-65s that gamble once per month increased by 4.8 percentage points, as compared to 0.9 from those aged 55-64.

To be clear, those are absolute percentages - the group of over-65’s that gambled rose from 8.7% to 13.5%.

In other words, gambling among over-65s has increased by over 55%, in relative terms.

Intriguingly, the group of those aged 45-54 saw a marked increase in gambling as well, up 4.5 points, while the groups under the age of 34 actually saw decreased gambling activity over this time period.

What Effect Will This Spike In Elderly Gambling Have?

Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, a spokesperson for behavioral addictions at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, points out that the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be a proximate cause of this change in behavior.

“The pandemic has shaken our lives in so many ways and these data show that many more older people are gambling online than were before the start of the pandemic,” said Bowden-Jones.

“Not everyone who gambles will develop a gambling disorder, but some will. Gambling disorder is an illness and if left untreated can lead to significant depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.”

The worry, according to Bowden-Jones, is that those over-65s are going to start changing the demographic of problem gambling.

“We have not seen a large number of problematic gamblers in their 60s and 70s, but are we going to?” said the Professor. “Is this going to show as a change in the demographic presenting to NHS [addiction] clinics?”

Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of gambling reform advocacy group Clean Up Gambling, puts the blame on aggressive online casino marketing tactics and the fact that older people are overwhelmingly at home and more vulnerable.

“[Older people] are at home, are more vulnerable and are shielding and only have Facebook, their laptop and TV to keep in touch with people [which means] they are being constantly marketed at and the temptation is always there,” said Zarb-Cousin, per The Guardian.

“They might sign up to bet on racing or sports, but they will be cross-sold the other addictive stuff like slots and will be given free spins and it is quite overwhelming.”