Researching Gambling

In 2010, an estimated 73% of the British population gambled at least once a year. In 2016, Gambling Commission data showed that 45% gambled in the last four weeks. The UK gambling sector is diverse, with online platforms increasing the range of products and reaching new audiences. Gambling research is an active field in the UK, involving industry and academia, with funding and research grant awarding largely determined by the industry-funded Responsible Gambling Trust. There is a debate as to what extent this arrangement encourages high quality, independent research on gambling to take place.

Current areas of interest focus largely on understanding the routes to risky gambling behaviour, the influence of products, notably B2 gaming machines (fixed odds betting terminals), the impact of 24-hour access to online gambling and the impacts of advertising. In addition, some research seeks to understand the characteristics of gamblers, the prevalence of harmful gambling behaviour in the UK and what approaches and interventions to minimise harm are most effective. Discussions about B2 gaming machines in particular, have already led to regulatory change which halved the £100 limit for unconditional betting. A Government consultation on Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures closed in late 2016; its report is expected in Spring 2017. The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board’s three year plan (2016-19) outlines its priority as minimising gambling-related harm, with a recent position paper proposing that gambling-related harm be regarded as a public health issue.

This POSTnote will describe the scale and nature of gambling in the UK. It will summarise the landscape within which gambling research is conducted, the evidence emerging from research and how this might inform policy.

For more information, or to contribute to this project please contact Dr Sarah Bunn and Dr Jane Hand.