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Evidence theme 5 - Product characteristics and risk

Evidence theme 5 - Product characteristics and risk

This theme is about:

  • improving our understanding of which products and behaviours carry greater risk of harm, for whom, and why
  • gaining a deeper understanding of how consumers interact with different products and links to gambling harms
  • identifying areas of new or emerging risk and building a strong understanding of changes in the market.

Gambling risk is formed from many factors that are integral to the gambling experience, these include the gambling product, place, and provider. The gambling product is often the most complex element of this trio, with many structural characteristics being combined into a single product which can add or mitigate riskiness for different types of gamblers. The complexity of some products can make it difficult to isolate the impacts of its individual structural characteristics, which therefore makes it difficult assess the product’s composite level of risk.

However, research has been conducted into characteristics of gaming products such as slots games, identifying factors such as frequency, audio-visual factors, rewards and information provision21. Tools have been developed on the basis of this research, which can assess the risk of gambling products, and have been used to identify additional characteristics. Consideration has also been given to the structural characteristics of sports betting products22.

A further complexity arises when considering the way in which individuals interact with different gambling products at different times, and how well they understand the products, as well as concepts such as probability and randomness. The ability to make informed choices is relevant to the Commission’s ’fair and open’ licensing objective (opens in new tab) (PDF), which is one reason why the focus on products needs to be considered alongside the other themes rather than in isolation.

The existing research has led to regulatory developments that include the long-standing requirements in the remote gambling and software technical standards (updated over time) for remote products, and reductions in the maximum stake levels for B2 gaming machines23 and scratchcards24. They also informed the changes to online slots games that impact the speed-of-play, illusion of control and removal of losses-disguised-as-wins.

There is no single homogenous gambling journey. This is why further research is required to establish the connection between product characteristics and increased risk of experiencing gambling-related harms. Research that identifies markers of harm and increased risk is important and can be utilised to develop appropriate mitigation methods. Examples of this type of research could include examining real-time account activity data, especially when combined with survey data in the manner of NatCen’s Patterns of Play research (opens in new tab) (PDF), opportunities created through data linkage, or robustly evaluated product trials in live environments.

Example research questions within this theme

These are the type of questions that could be considered in relation to this theme:

  • Are certain product characteristics associated with gambling-related harms?
  • Do some product characteristics disproportionately affect certain types of gamblers?
  • How can gambling products be designed to mitigate the riskiness of game characteristics without compromising enjoyment?
  • How do people’s patterns of play vary between products?

Evidence theme 5 - Progress made in year one

The Gambling Commission published an assessment of the impact of changes made to the design of online slot games, which showed a reduction in play intensity and no increase in staking activity.

Our development of the Gambling Survey for Great Britain (GSGB) involved extensive work to improve and test a new list of gambling activities asked as part of the core participations questions, to give a more up to date list of activities which better reflects the current market.

Research comparing risk levels between different types of online gambling products using behavioural markers of harm was conducted by the University of Adelaide, Sophro Ltd and the Kindred Group.

Forward look

The new activity list in the GSGB will allow for more accurate and relevant analyses on the relationship between gambling activities and a range of key factors, including PGSI scores, motivations, and the impacts of gambling.

We are designing a pilot of industry data collection of a more detailed daily dataset (Regular Feed of Operator Core Data – ROCD) which if successful, would enable us to conduct more in-depth analyses of consumer play data to explore play behaviours across different products and activities

Innovative research is taking place at Kings College London, using virtual reality to explore the interaction between product, person, and environment.


21Key issues in product-based harm minimisation: Examining theory, evidence and policy issues relevant in Great Britain (opens in new tab), J Parke, A Parke and A Blaszczynski, 2016.

22Structural characteristics of fixed-odds sports betting products (opens in new tab), P W Newall, A Russell and N Hing, Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Volume 10, Issue 3, pages 371 to 380.

23Government to cut Fixed Odds Betting Terminals maximum stake from £100 to £2 (opens in new tab), Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2018.

24Rationale for agreeing the withdrawal of £10 scratchcard games, Gambling Commission, 2022.

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Evidence theme 4 - The impact of operator practices
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Evidence theme 6 - Illegal gambling and crime
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