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A quarter of gamblers prefer a punt to a pint

Almost one in four people would rather place a bet than go to the pub, according to a new study on sports gambling from Loughborough and Staffordshire Universities.

Dr Jamie Cleland (Loughborough University) and Professor Ellis Cashmore (Staffordshire University) surveyed 2,500 people online between June and August 2013 to understand individuals’ motivations for gambling.

Their findings paint a picture of gamblers as rational decision makers who understand the odds and the technicalities of betting, rather than addicts unable to control their compulsions.

Eight out of 10 people surveyed describe themselves as ‘people who like a bet’, rather than the 16% who think of themselves as gamblers. The majority of bettors (60%) wager just 2% or less of their net income.

71% of respondents regarded their gambling as recreational, and motives were split across the thrill of anticipation (34%), the thrill of winning (27.5%), and to make money (27.5%).

Dr Cleland, a lecturer in Loughborough University’s Department of Social Sciences, said:

“This study challenges the myth of the gambling addict promoted by the medical profession, and identifies sports gamblers as rational decision makers.

“70% of the gamblers surveyed believe they have lost money over the last 12 months, suggesting a rationality rarely attributed to the group; they gamble in the knowledge they are likely to lose money, but they do so in the exchange for the gratification it provides. They’re not driven by compulsions or forces beyond their control, but by the same motives as someone who pays for a cinema ticket or a monthly television subscription.”

The study also showed online sports gambling has now overtaken gambling in the bookmakers on popularity, with 48% of gamblers betting in private compared to 40% who use the bookies.

Of those surveyed, 17% place at least one bet per day, 19% bet three times per week, and 20% gamble on sports once or twice per week.

The researchers expect sports gambling to further increase in light of the economic upturn, with Professor Cashmore adding:

“News of an economic recovery, however modest, will buoy bettors who will gamble with more abandon as the nation moves further from a period of austerity. While pubs are closing on an almost daily basis, betting shops are on the increase, which is tied to the fact almost a quarter of gamblers surveyed prefer placing a bet to a pint at the pub.” 

The researchers are hoping to attract funding for the next stage of the project that looks more in-depth at gambling today.

The latest research survey is available at

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 13/206

  1. Further statistics from this study are available. Please contact Amanda Overend for details.
  2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

    It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. It has been voted England's Best Student Experience for six years running in the Times Higher Education league, and in recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

    It is a member of the 1994 Group of 11 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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