Gambling addiction hooks 600,000 people, says report

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Gambling addiction in the UK has more than doubled in recent years with up to 600,000 people hooked, new figures are expected to reveal.

The research by the Gambling Commission may prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the Government's plans to build the UK's first Las Vegas-style super-casino in Manchester, with many expecting Gordon Brown to scrap the plans.

Details of the report are being kept secret until its official release on Wednesday, but it is expected to document a dramatic increase in the number of people gambling both online and in casinos.

The dramatic rise over the past eight years ties in with the increasing popularity of online betting and touch screen roulette games where players can bet anything up to £300 a minute.

Mr Brown let it be known that he disapproved of gambling when he levied a surprise £100m tax on casinos in his last Budget as Chancellor in March. Shortly afterwards, plans for 17 casinos were thrown out by Parliament.

As Prime Minister, Mr Brown then ordered a review of plans for the Manchester super-casino. At the time, the policy was described by Government insiders as "dead in the water".

It is, however, too late to revoke a relaxation in the gaming rules which have allowed betting shops to open later and let casinos advertise on television.

The Commission last carried out a similar survey eight years ago when it put the number of UK addicts at 300,000. The study is also expected to say a million people in the UK are now gambling online, spending an average of £1,000 a year each.

The Commission says internet gamblers are usually men aged 18 to 34.