Gambling Commission’s revamped data process suggests one in 40 Britons is a problem gambler

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The Commission began a review of how it collects data back in 2020 as it progressed plans for its mammoth Gambling Survey for Great Britain project.

Since then, it has worked with partners to improve how it asks people to participate and how questions are asked. Among other changes, gambling behaviours across Great Britain are now gathered using a push-to-web survey methodology. This replaces the long-running telephone survey data collection.

The figures released this week come from a survey of 4,000 people carried out in April and May. It was found that more than half of respondents had gambled in the previous month. The research suggested 2.5% of those quizzed had a score of 8+ on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) screen. This would categorise them as problem gamblers. A further 3.5% scored between 3 and 7, making them a moderate-risk gambler. The Commission conceded that surveys focused on online self-completion produce consistently higher estimates of gambling harm. 

The report also focused on the most popular activities to participate in over the past four weeks. These were the National Lottery (32%), charity lotteries (15%) and National Lottery scratchcards (13%)

The Commission said these new findings could not be compared to previous research due to changes in methodology. These “experimental” figures also should not be seen as replacements for current official statistics, it said.

How the Commission has revamped gambling data gathering

Over the last three years, the Commission has sought to improve its processes through consultations, surveys and workshop sessions. Earlier this year, it published its evidence gaps and priorities paper for the three years between 2023 and 2026. The research focused on areas of regulation that need evidence-based development.

The Commission said following the publication of new figures it has now completed the experimental phase of its project.

“This project is just one of the ways the Commission is looking to improve our understanding and build a stronger evidence base for our regulation, as set out in our evidence gaps and priorities for 2023 to 2026,” said Helen Bryce, the Commission’s head of statistics.

“After experiments, cognitive testing and advice from NatCen’s questionnaire design experts we are able to collect relevant data about the gambling activities that are available to consumers today, in a way that consumers describe them.”

The end of the quarterly gambling participation survey

The Commission is continuing to progress its plan for the Gambling Survey for Great Britain. This will be an annual survey of 20,000 people, making it one of the world’s largest gambling data research projects.

Bryce added: “This project is just one of the ways the Commission is looking to improve our understanding and build a stronger evidence base for our regulation, as set out in our evidence gaps and priorities for 2023 to 2026. And one of the things we want to explore once the Gambling Survey for Great Britain is up and running is how we can deepen our knowledge by comparing the survey results with operator data and other available datasets.”

Earlier this year, the final edition of the Gambling Commission’s quarterly statistics on participation found all categories “statistically stable” from the previous period.

The headline problem gambling rate, as measured by the short form Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), remained statistically stable at 0.3%.

The in-person gambling participation rate also was stable compared to the March 2022 period at 27%. However, this is still significantly below the 35% who answered positively to the survey in the pre-pandemic period.

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