A study by the Policy Institute at King’s College London has concluded that the UK is lacking a strong body of evidence on gambling harms.
The 56-page report, published yesterday (25 March), said “the UK appears to lag behind other countries in empirical research into gambling harms. In comparison with other countries such as Australia, Canada and the US, we found relatively little research on gambling harms in the UK context”.
Identifying research priorities on gambling-related harms was commissioned by Action Against Gambling Harms and conducted by Rachel Hesketh, Vivienne Moxham-Hall, Caroline Norrie, Lucy Strang and Benedict Wilkinson at the Policy Institute.
It looked at four key areas; affordability, children, women and sport and found key evidence relating to the UK was missing from each area. “This is important as there are limits to the extent to which overseas findings are translatable to the UK context, given the potential differences in socio-cultural factors and the gambling ecology (for example, legal gambling age, availability of gambling products and venues etc.)”, the report stressed.
The study found that the majority of evidence that did exist related to the financial harms of problem gambling and how those affected players and society more broadly. However, there was little evidence on the gamblers themselves and what factors might contribute to one individual experiencing harm, while another would not.
Action against Gambling Harms CEO Seema Kennedy OBE said: “This important study shows how much we still don’t know about gambling and its effects on British society. We hope that these findings will galvanise research institutions and policymakers into commissioning further work to fill the gaps.”
The study found one notable gap where women were concerned. It found there is a historic male bias in research into gambling harms, because gambling is often seen as a male issue. As a result, women are less likely to come forward for treatment.
Despite this, the report contended that “the prevalence of female gambling generally, and female problem gambling specifically is increasing, as the ‘feminisation’ of gambling products and venues by the industry continues”.
The report found that the evidence that does exist suggests there are differences in the motivations and profile of female gamblers, compared to males and suggested that future research should include differences in gambling behaviours and experiences of harm by age group; and problem gambling in immigrant and minority ethnic communities.
It also recommended longitudinal studies to investigate how gambling behaviours may change over time and the effectiveness of harm reductions in the longer term, as well as the interactions between mental ill health and harmful gambling behaviour.
The researchers found there was a considerable amount of research into gambling and children but that it again lacked longitudinal studies or research into the relationship between youth gambling and other negative outcomes.
It did find that existing research pointed to positive outcomes when interventions to prevent gambling or gambling related harms among children were made at school, and that this kind of education could reduce harm and improve attitudes towards gambling.
When looking into gambling in the context of sports, the study found that there was a dearth of evidence among diverse populations and into emerging modes of sports gambling, such as DFS. It suggested that greater efforts needed to be made to study these areas and to look into potentially problematic features of online sports gambling, such as instant depositing, cash out features and in-play betting, and gambling via mobile apps.
The research comes as the government’s consultation on the Gambling Act comes to a close at the end of this month, and its review of the current UK regulatory regime continues.