By Jon Bryan | Expected reading time 3 min

Last Updated: March 18, 2024

At the end of March, submissions to the government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005 closed. In the run-up, lots of people wanted to have their say: its likely that there will have been hundreds of submissions. It will be interesting to see what the officials looking at all of the evidence make of it all.

The framing of the review was largely accepted and approved by all parties – possibly the only thing that everyone agreed on. The government said they wanted to strike a balance between respecting ‘the freedom of adults to choose how they spend their money’ and ‘the protection of children and vulnerable people’. To almost everyone, that seems like an eminently sensible thing to do. Millions of people enjoy gambling every year and should be free to continue to do so, but protecting the vulnerable from harm is also an important aspect of regulation.

But one thing that is largely absent from the discussion is a lack of stories – or evidence in any way – which shows that gambling can be enjoyable and fun. In 2019, almost half of adults surveyed had taken part in at least one form of gambling in the previous four weeks . If nothing else, it should tell us that the activity is a popular pastime for a significant number of people.

In the terms of reference, the government did point out that:

‘Gambling can be entertaining and sociable, and enhance enjoyment of other activities’, and also adding: ‘the vast majority of gamblers take part without suffering even low levels of harm’.

But not one of the questions asked for evidence about what punters actually think and what gambling might mean for individuals and groups of people. While the need to address harm has received a lot of attention, there does seem to be a dearth of evidence and research on the positives that people get from having a bet.

Gambling can be fun, and there is no reason not to admit that. Over the last year, I have very much missed playing poker: in the casino with strangers; or at a house with friends. I can’t wait for lockdown restrictions to be lifted and to enjoy the feel of cards and poker chips once again. If the government review does not consider evidence from those who enjoy a flutter, it will not be a proper review of the state of gambling in the UK.

Jon Bryan is a Gambling Writer and Poker Player
Follow him on Twitter: @JonBryanPoker