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Gambling harm in Ethnic Minority populations

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Research since 2007, commissioned by the Gambling Commission, has repeatedly and consistently indicated that gambling disorder disproportionately affects 16-24-year-olds, males, and individuals of minority ethnic backgrounds.

Prevalence of gambling - any gambling activity in the past year % (regular, at least monthly, gambling %)

The last gold-standard prevalence survey, BGPS 2010 showed that past-year gambling prevalence is significantly less common amongst ethnic minority groups than in white ethnic groups.

Prevalence of gambling harm from own gambling by ethnic group

The BGPS 2010 also showed that more than 1 in 10 adults (16+) from ethnic minority backgrounds suffered gambling harm from their gambling in the past year.

  • White/White British: Low-risk harm: 5.5%, Moderate-risk harm: 1.5%, Gambling Disorder harm: 0.8% = 7.8% 1 in 7 White/White British individuals who gambled in the past year suffered gambling-harm

  • Black/Black British: Low-risk harm: 7.8%, Moderate-risk harm: 4.8%, Gambling Disorder harm: 1.5% = 14.1% 1 in 3 Black/Black British individuals who gambled in the past year suffered gambling-harm

  • Asian/Asian British: Low-risk harm: 3.7%, Moderate-risk harm: 3.6%, Gambling Disorder harm: 2.8% = 10.1% 1 in 5 Asian/Asian British individuals who gambled in the past year suffered gambling-harm

  • Other ethnic group: Low-risk harm: 7.2%, Moderate-risk harm: 5.0%, Gambling Disorder harm: 0.8% = 13.0% 1 in 4 Other ethnic group individuals who gambled in the past year suffered gambling-harm

Prevalence of gambling disorder in Great Britain by ethnicity and by religion

The most recent gold-standard gambling prevalence surveys, BGPS 2007 and BGPS 2010, found that Asian and Black ethnic groups were disproportionately affected by gambling disorders. In 2012, the NHS Survey Data found this relationship again and a significant relationship for 'other' ethnic groups. The studies' primary limitation is the small sample sizes of people from minority backgrounds; hence, the estimates lack precision.

  • British Gambling Prevalence Survey (BGPS) (gold-standard)

  • BGPS 2007 (According to DSM-IV)

  • White: 0.5% (Odds ratio: 1, n=7724)

  • Asian or Asian British: 1.4% (Odds ratio: 3.55, n=263)

  • Black or Black British: 2.0% (Odds ratio: 3.80, n=171)

  • Other: 2.2% (Odds ratio: 2.86, n=192)

  • BGPS 2010 (According to DSM-IV)

  • White: 0.8% (Odds ratio: 1, n=7073)

  • Asian or Asian British: 2.8% (Odds ratio: 3.06, n=308)

  • Black or Black British: 1.5% (Odds ratio: 1.72, n=202)

  • Other: 0.8% (Odds ratio: 0.60, n=151)

  • Self-completion forms included as part of a broader health survey (replaces BGPS after 2010 and a 50% decrease in research funding at the Gambling Commission)

  • Gambling behaviour in England and Scotland: Findings from the Health Survey for England 2012 and Scottish Health Survey (According to either DSM-IV or PGSI)

  • Ethnicity

  • White: 0.4% (Odds ratio: 1, n=10132)

  • Black/Black British: 2.5% (Odds ratio: 7.37, n=178)

  • Asian/Asian British: 2.4% (Odds ratio: 5.02, n=452)

  • Mixed: Other: 2.2% (Odds ratio: 6.86, n=136)

  • Religion

  • No religion: 0.5% (n=3626)

  • Christian - Catholic: 0.6% (n=1846)

  • Christian - other denominations: 0.3% (n=4787)

  • Muslim: 0.8% (n=240)

  • Any other religion: 3.4% (n=329)

  • Gambling behaviour in England and Scotland: Findings from the Health Survey for England 2015 and Scottish Health Survey (According to either DSM-IV or PGSI)

  • White: 0.7% (n=14013)

  • Black/Black British: 1.0% (n=221)

  • Asian/Asian British: 1.5% (n=458)

  • Other: 3.3% (n=217)

  • Gambling behaviour in England and Scotland: Findings from the Health Survey for England 2016 and Scottish Health Survey (According to either DSM-IV or PGSI)

  • White: 0.6% (n=9850)

  • Black/Black British: 2.8% (n=188)

  • Asian/Asian British: 0.4% (n=462)

  • Other: 1.2% (n=191)

  • YouGov Online 2020

  • Gambling among adults from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities: a secondary data analysis of the Gambling Treatment and Support study

  • White

  • Low-risk harm: 7.2% + Moderate-risk harm: 3.0% + Gambling disorder harm: 2.2% = 12.4%

  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic

  • Low-risk harm: 7.6% + Moderate-risk harm: 5.6% + Gambling disorder harm: 7.2% = 20.2%

In summary, odds ratios are available from BGPS 2007, BGPS 2010, and Health Survey 2012 and are the following for minority ethnic groups: 0.60, 1.72, 2.86, 3.06, 3.55, 3.80, 5.02, 6.86, 7.37. Mean, μ:3.87. Standard Deviation, σ: 2.09. Median = 3.55. Hence, we estimate that ethnic minority populations are between 3 to 5 times more likely to suffer from a gambling disorder relative to white populations.

Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority populations account for 12% of England and Wales's population. However, according to previously existing odds ratio analysis in three studies, Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority populations account for 31% (BGPS 2007), 17% (BGPS 2010), and 47% (NHS Survey 2012) of all individuals in the population with gambling disorder.

As well as the effect of small sample sizes, these estimates are likely to be affected by cultural stigma, pride, mental health, health awareness, and other factors related to health inequality that may impact ethnic minority populations differently.

Factors towards gambling

'Coping', 'Recreation' & 'Money'

The British Gambling Prevalence Survey in 2010 is the only study in Britain to have explored the different factors that motivate an individual to gamble. In this research, significant differences were seen between ethnic minority and White groups, and particularly on the factors of ‘coping,’ ‘recreation,’ and ‘money.’

  • The ethnic minority groups identified coping as a motivator more strongly than the low-risk harm group and White ethnic groups

  • Coping

  • no gambling-harm: -0.07

  • White/White British: 0.01

  • low-risk harm: 0.29

  • Asian/Asian British: 0.44

  • Black/Black British: 0.52

  • Other ethnic groups: 0.54

  • moderate-risk harm: 1.32

  • gambling disorder harm: 2.40

  • Asian and Black groups were less motivated towards gambling for recreation purposes relative to other groups

  • Recreation

  • Asian/Asian British: -0.13

  • Black/Black British: -0.15

  • no gambling-harm: 0.06

  • White/White British: 0.12

  • Other ethnic groups: 0.14

  • low-risk harm: 0.41

  • moderate-risk harm: 0.51

  • gambling disorder harm: 0.51

  • Black groups were more likely to be motivated towards gambling to make money or gambling for the chance of winning big money when compared to others

  • Money

  • Other ethnic groups: -0.15

  • low-risk harm: 0.16

  • no gambling-harm: 0.17

  • White/White British: 0.17

  • moderate-risk harm: 0.17

  • Asian/Asian British: 0.22

  • gambling disorder harm: 0.34

  • gambling disorder harm: 0.34

  • Black/Black British: 0.53

As well as differences in attitudes, there are other factors such as the locations of betting shops, that lead to a disproportionately negative effect of gambling harm in ethnic minority communities. Betting shops in England and Wales are in postcode districts where the population is on average, disproportionately composed of individuals from minority ethnic groups.

  • In postcode districts where there are 10 or more betting shops, the population is even more disproportionately composed of all minority ethnic groups except for those under other.

  • Furthermore, the locations of 6518 betting shops in England are overwhelmingly in deprived areas, according to 2019 Office for National Statistics Deprivation data.

Other factors (odds ratios)

Parents regularly gambled, but did not have a problem: 1.58, Current cigarette smoker: 2.46, Unmanaged hypertension: 3.10, Unemployed: 4.02, Bad/very bad general health status: 6.17, Parents regularly gambled and did have problems with gambling: 7.32, A low Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing score.
Odds ratios from the British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010

Qualitative perspectives from the GambleAware/Clearview Research study

Cultural stigma

  • “... in our culture or community, gambling has a bad reputation, and so if you gamble, you have a bad name.”

  • “... yeah, our community is harsh… people have harsh opinions about people… so if you are doing anything that is seen as bad, you are seen are bad.”

  • “Yeah, people don’t speak a thing about gambling.”

  • “All the bookies are in the hood, and you see a lot of yardies (translation: Jamaicans) in them.”

Health awareness

  • “…like on the packages, it says smoking kills, so you know what you are getting into, but I don’t see anything like that with gambling at all.”

  • “Oh yeah, it’s treated different; even when it becomes a problem - for white people, it’s like ‘they need help’ whereas, for us, it’s treated like it’s a sickness.”

  • “Black and Asian communities they are more strict about gambling, and they think it’s a mental illness.”

Getting help

  • None of the 65 participants confidently knew where to get help. One participant whose gambling had become a problem stated that “No, I didn’t know at all… my mental health suffered, I was in 15 grand of debt… I was in a bad place, man.”

  • Nearly nine in 10 (89%) participants said there is a difference between how gambling is seen in ethnic and white cultures.

Reasons for gambling

  • “I feel like Black people see gambling as a glimpse of a way out, but for white people, it just for bants.”

  • “White people go into the bookies for banter, whereas people from my culture go to actually make money.”


  • Gambling harm is more prevalent and is likely to have a worse impact on those from a minority ethnic background, and this is in part due to differences in cultural attitudes, stigma, and health awareness

  • Furthermore, this is worsened by betting shops being overwhelmingly crammed into areas where there are higher percentages of ethnic minority individuals and in areas of deprivation

  • We estimate that ethnic minority populations are between 3 to 5 times more likely to suffer from a gambling disorder relative to white populations

  • Education professionals and treatment providers should look to rapidly develop and expand consideration for gambling harm in ethnic minority communities

  • At present, gambling harm is a neglected race and equality issue that has and is likely to further inequalities


Map of betting shops in GB

Define vulnerable person

The Commission does not seek to define ‘vulnerable persons,’ but it does, for regulatory purposes, assume that this group includes

  • people who gamble more than they want to,

  • people who gamble beyond their means and,

  • people who may not be able to make informed or balanced decisions about gambling due to, for example, mental health, a learning disability, or substance misuse relating to alcohol or drugs

"If you are targeting vulnerable people, who will become addicted, then it is immoral."

- Young BAME perspective

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