Are Reality TV Bets Driving Problem Gambling? Some Experts Say, Absolutely

Written by:
Jordan Bach
Published on:

Each month over 100,000 people in the UK, on average, search for the bookies’ odds on their favourite shows - with gambling addiction experts at Rehabs UK saying more need to be aware of the risks involved in treating TV betting as a bit of fun.

  • Around 52,000 people a month look to place bets on I’m a Celebrity, from who will win or be eliminated during each series to who might appear when a new one begins.
  • Rehabs UK has experienced more enquiries for addiction support related to gambling than to methamphetamine this year, for the first time.
  • Experts say a rise in problem gambling, being driven by the cost of living crisis, will only get worse if action isn’t taken to reduce ‘irresponsible advertising’ and new gambling options.

A recent NHS report claims that 1 in 8 11-16 year olds now follow gambling companies on social media.

“Online gambling is being introduced to whole new audiences, who wouldn’t previously have been at risk.” Says Lester Morse, founder and director of Rehabs UK. “Not only is gambling easier to access than ever before, there’s an almost limitless amount of things to bet on. If you can think of it, you can bet on it.”

Fun Fact:  What's was the most searched for reality show coming into this decade?  That would be Love Island.  The ITV2 show Love Island saw a whopping 2,447,000 searches in 2020 and had 3,032,051 Instagram followers entering this decade.

Strictly Come Dancing was the most watched of the reality shows over the last decade while Love Island drew the most interest when factoring in social media responses entering 2020.  As we prepare to come into 2024, both shows are still going strong. 

Strictly Come Dancing odds to win for the 2023 season were widely available on my UK betting sites with websites even offering bonuses specific to these programmes.  BetFred, for example, was offering a free £40 on a £10 bet. has found that bookmakers typically limit entertainment bets, at least those catering to the North American market.  £200 caps are common.

Britain's 10 Most Watched Reality Shows of the Last Century

  1.     Strictly Come Dancing (9.78m) BBC.

  2.     I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! ...

  3.     The X Factor (9.46m) ITV. ...

  4.     Britain's Got Talent (9.43m) ITV. ...

  5.     Great British Bake-Off (8.1m) Love Productions//BBC. ...

  6.     Pop Idol (7.82m) ITV. ...

  7.     Dancing On Ice (7.5m) ...

  8.     The Voice (7.23m) ...

While Strictly Come Dancing and Love Island may be the most watched and searched for reality shows, these are not necessarily the most wagered on.

Reviewing the UK’s online searches, the Rehabs UK team found that I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here was the show with the greatest amount of betting interest, followed by Eurovision.  The latter is the annual European music contest and, in that sense, it's more akin to the Oscars awards and Miss Universe pageant.

Fun Fact: Many U.S. television hit shows, including some reality television shows, originated in the UK.  Suzanne Somers sadly passed away last week.  She was best known for starring on the beloved U.S. television series Three's Company, which itself was based on the popular British television show Man About the House.  And guess what?  Another British import is making noise in the United States.  The naked dating show Naked Attraction is now the number one most streamed show on Max, which is not an adaption but rather the actual British version.  That show incorporates fun sex "facts" like "What's the sexiest accent according to a recent survey?".  The answer, "of course", British!

“Academic studies have shown that young children think adverts make gambling look ‘fun’ and ‘easy’**, and unfortunately the same could be said of many adults.” Morse continues. “At the end of the day, the more the bookies work to target broader audiences with their ads and their odds, the more chances there are that someone will take a step into a habit they come to regret. Better advertising regulations are needed, just as have been brought in for cigarettes, alcohol and other addictive habits.”

A number of UK reality television shows make their way overseas to the U.S.  Offshore sportsbooks catering to the North American market have long posted odds on reality television shows.  Regulated state betting sites are prohibited from doing so. 

- Jordan Bach,

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