BACKGROUND Excessive gambling is a prominent Public Health problem with high prevalence rates in many countries. Substance abuse and other co-morbidities often constitute a major health hazard for the person which gambles with a loss of material and social resources, as well as being a major concern for his or her significant others. The present study updates and extends prevalence data to include work published between 2000 and 2005 in English and other European languages. METHODS In a three-step search and exclusion process, studies with current adult prevalence rates were gathered. RESULTS Almost all studies fulfil basic research standards. The weighted mean prevalence rates for excessive gambling (problem and pathological) are 3.0% for the South Oaks Gambling Survey (problem 1.2%; pathological 1.8%), 3.3% for the Canadian Problem Gambling Index (problem 2.4%; pathological 0.8%) and 3.1% for the DSM-IV (problem 1.9%; pathological 1.2%). CONCLUSION The prevalence rates are comparable and relatively stable between countries and across survey instruments, and do not differ from earlier reviews. The regular epidemiological monitoring of excessive gambling remains a major Public Health issue although the distinction between pathological and problem gambling is not appropriate for epidemiological research. Further studies are needed with respect to concomitant lifestyle characteristics.