It is illegal in the United States and frowned upon elsewhere, but online gambling is big business in the UK. So much so that it costs employers some £300m every year in lost productivity, a new report has warned.
Research carried out for technology consultancy Morse has found that one in three British office workers have placed a bet online during working hours or know a colleague who has done so.
Men are far more likely than women to take a punt at work, with almost four out of 10 (38 per cent) of men questioned admitting to gambling online, compared to one in five (21 per cent) of women. Most are aged between 25 and 34.
"Many employees have unmonitored access to the internet and the fact that they can now follow most sporting events online, coupled with the rise of internet gambling websites, has tempted people to place a 'quick' bet online," said Morse consultant Philip Wicks
"However these bets all add up and can greatly impact on businesses' productivity."
The research found that those who gamble regularly spend almost 12 per cent of their weekly salary indulging their habit, with bets most often being placed on the National Lottery, football matches, horse races and online poker games.
And while the government seem determined to press ahead with liberalisation gaming laws, Britain's doctors have warned that the consequences could include a gambling epidemic
A report from the British Medical Association says that there are already some 300,000 problem gamblers in the UK and that the numbers will rise over the next 20 years.
"With online gambling set to rise by 22 per cent this year, it is clear businesses can no longer turn a blind eye to their employees' recreational activities," Philip Wicks added. "Businesses need to decide if it is acceptable for their office workers to place a quick bet online, and if so, where they will draw the line and decide if it is impacting on productivity,"