UK Gambling Commission

UKGC Pushes for Collaborative Addictive-Gambling Research Effort

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), has issued a public call for a collaborative research effort that focuses on new ways the industry can prevent harm to problem-gambling customers. The proposed study’s focus, according to the UKGC, will be to identify if — and how much — certain gambling products and environments are harmful to problem gamblers.

UK-licensed gambling operators will be queried to provide relevant, cross-category data regarding suspected addictive behavior by consumers. That data will be used in what the UKGC describes as an “extensive research project, jointly supported by the Commission’s expert advisors the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB), and commissioned by GambleAware.”

Big BenGambleAware is the UK’s leading independent entity working to protect gambling consumers from all manners of problem-gambling difficulties. Though independent, and with a mild anti-gambling skew, GambleAware has worked with government agencies including the UKGC on several previous efforts, and has a strong track record for producing quality, actionable research.

Also contributing and advising on the project is the RGSB, which has already produced a research overview identifying the project’s aim. According to that overview, these are the project’s primary objectives:

  • What the basic patterns of play are within online gambling
  • How these patterns of play vary for different types of people
  • How patterns of play vary among different products and characteristics
  • What types of behaviours are associated with problem or at-risk gambling (for example use of credit cards, reverse withdrawals etc).

In the first phase of the study, which will focus on online gambling, a series of framing and behavioral questions will help the effort better define and quantify certain gambling behaviors. A sample of the questions to be asked includes the following:

  • How do people gamble online?
  • Do people play differently on different online products?
  • Do patterns of play on similar products vary by other characteristics or factors (e.g. depending on whether credit cards are being used or the time of day the gambling is taking place?)
  • Do gamblers play differently when using gambling management tools?
  • How does people’s play vary according to demographics, socio-economic background, attitudes to gambling, and at-risk / problem gambling status?
  • What insight can we get from this player data on the affordability and impact of losses?
  • Are any particular online products and characteristics more strongly associated with harmful play?
  • Which online products and characteristics are particularly attractive to problem and at-risk gamblers compared with gamblers who are not classified as at-risk?
  • Are there any online products or characteristics that are less associated with harmful play or act as ‘protective characteristics’?
  • Which data are most useful in analysing patterns of play, and how frequently will they need to be refreshed to enable us to continue improving our understanding of gambling behaviour?

The research effort continues as part of the UKGC’s three-year plan, released in April, to make gambling fairer and safer for consumers. Its announcement comes just a week after the UKGC announced the latest enhancements in its ongoing crackdown efforts against ethically suspect operators who continue to circumvent the UK’s robust consumer-protection laws with regard to marketing and advertising programs.

Gambling Commission programme director Ben Haden said: “Our strategy sets out our commitment to preventing harm to consumers from the risks gambling can pose. Success of this relies on growing our evidence base to better understand the types of gambling products and services that present more of a risk of harm to consumers than others. Gambling firms have an important role to play in achieving this as they hold comprehensive data that is vital to this research. It goes beyond simply analysing the data which is already reported to us by operators and we will be encouraging the industry to get involved.”

Clare Wyllie, director of research commissioning at GambleAware, said: “GambleAware is pleased to be working with the Gambling Commission and the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board on a project that will help us to better understand gambling behaviour across different products and to know what characteristics are most strongly associated with harm – focusing on the online sector in the first phase and moving onto other sectors in subsequent phases. For the first time, we will be able to look comprehensively across the gambling industry to understand where the risk of harm lies and by making data available to researchers, industry can gain new insights to prevent harm and to ensure customers gamble safely.”

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