The Rise of Granny Gamblers

Cards held by elderly person Why are more and more British pensioners gambling?

A recent study has revealed a significant increase in the number of people in their sixties taking part in online gambling. But what is fuelling the rise of the granny gambler?

When you think of your average senior citizen, you think of a little old lady sat in front of the fire with a cup of tea watching re-runs of Miss Marple. But according to a recent survey by the Gambling Commission, a growing number of people aged 65+ are now gambling online.

In fact, the number of “granny gamblers” playing online casino (excluding online National Lottery) games has more than doubled over the past three years, rising from 3% of those asked in June 2013 to 7% in June this year.

The same can be said of 45-54 year olds, whose participation in online gambling (excluding playing the National Lottery online) has risen from 8% to 16% over the same period, according to the Commission’s Survey on Gambling Participation, Year to June 2016.

How do they play…

In a separate study, the Commission also revealed how 65+ year olds access online gaming sites. Respondents to the survey were able to select multiple devices, but the majority (49%) said they preferred to use a laptop.

The next most popular device was a desktop computer (46%) while a growing number (11%) use a tablet. In terms of where they play, the vast majority (99%) said they played from the comfort of their own home.

When it comes to 45-54 year-olds, laptops remain the most popular device (54%), followed by desktop computers (44%), but mobile phones overtake tablets as the third most common platform, with 18% of those asked saying they use them to gamble online.

The majority of play (98%) takes place at home, but 11% said they access sites while at work, with 6% doing so while commuting to the office and a further 6% saying they also gambled online while in a pub or club.

Why the rise?

While the data itself is interesting, it doesn’t offer much in the way of an explanation for why an increasing number of senior citizens are embracing online gambling as a new form of fun and entertainment.

For that, you have to look at the growing availability of technology, the willingness of senior citizens to learn how it works and incorporate it their day to day lives, as well as many enjoying a financially secure retirement.

Indeed, according to Statista, laptop penetration amongst 65-74 year olds in the UK rose from 32% in 2011 to 47% in 2014, with that number on a firm upward trajectory. From 2011 to 2015, tablet ownership amongst 55+ year olds also jumped from 11% to 37%.

As laptops and tablets become more widely available, and their usage amongst senior citizens increases, those in the 65+ age bracket are learning more about the technology, what it offers, and how they can get more out of it.

Brain gym

The games themselves are also being designed with an ever-broader audience demographic in mind. While some granny gamblers enjoy bingo, blackjack, and slots, others are drawn to match three puzzle games such as Candy Crush and strategy games like World of Tanks.

Indeed, some senior citizens are being encouraged to play certain types of game as a way of exercising their minds. Games such as poker are engaging and cognitively complex, while many sites offer tutorials for those who have never played before.

What’s more, senior citizens are increasingly finding themselves more financially secure, and as such have a larger disposable income to spend on entertainment. Even for those with less money to spare, online gambling can be seen as a cheap form of fun.

Some games are completely free to play, while the likes of Gala Bingo offer games from as little as one pence. Bingo has long been a popular game amongst senior citizens, but for those unable to leave the house, playing online is an ideal solution.

Problem solved

The good news is that despite the rise in 65+ year olds gambling online, the risk of developing problem play has fallen amongst medium to low-risk players, driven by awareness campaigns such as When the Fun Stops, Stop.

The latest Gambling Commission data shows that medium risk players fell from 1.3% in 2013 to 0.1%, while low risk players dropped from 1% to 0.6% over the same period. For 45-54 year olds, the numbers fell from 1.2% to 0.4% and 1.6% to 1.0% respectively.

To avoid developing a gambling problem, we recommend taking the following steps:

  • Only ever gamble what you can afford to lose, and never chase your losses
  • Set wager and loss limits to control the amount you can spend and loose
  • Some sites allow you to set time limits, and will then log you out for a set period once that time has elapsed
  • Don’t bet if you are feeling emotional, sad, or angry
  • Never put gambling before socialising with friends and family
  • If you think you may have a problem, speak to friends or family, or contact Gamble Aware
  • The rise of granny gamblers certainly makes for an eye-catching headline and interesting blog post, but more than that it reflects the changing perception of gambling as a form of entertainment.

    Once seen as something of a taboo, it’s now considered a pleasurable pass time; no different to watching football, playing a board game, or meeting with friends. And that’s because technology has helped bridge the gap between generations, and to drive online gambling into the mainstream.

    As the technology continues to evolve and improve, and senior citizens embrace tablet and mobile devices even more than they have already, the number of granny gamblers looks odds on to keep rising.

    And with growing support and understanding of problem gambling, that can only be a good thing.