An economic and social review of gambling in Great Britain


The paper considers the nature and scale of the benefits and costs of gambling, with special reference to machine gaming. Although the industry is argued to be unlikely to have a significant macroeconomic impact, evidence is consistent with it generating considerable benefits to individual (responsible) consumers, whether measured by consumer surplus or through the pattern of responses to a wellbeing question. At the same time, a minority of users of gaming facilities, problem gamblers, appear to make consistently flawed decisions such that those with gambling disorder experience exceptionally low wellbeing. Public policy and regulatory decisions should consider the effects, on the margin, on both the net benefits to recreational gamblers and the net costs to problem gamblers. Many policy decisions may involve a trade-off between the welfare of recreational gamblers and the welfare of problem gamblers. Contemporary interest in targeted policies appears to represent an attempt to avoid the need to confront such a trade-off by searching for policies which are aimed very explicitly at problem gamblers alone.

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