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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 characteristics combining in a single product which add or mitigate riskiness for different types of gamblers. Although different problem gambling rates are recorded for different products22, their complexity can make it difficult to assess any individual product’s composite risk and also to isolate the impact of each characteristic within different products.

However, some research has been conducted over the years into characteristics of gaming products such as slots games, identifying factors such as frequency, audio-visual factors, rewards and information provision.23 There have also been tools developed to assess the risk of gambling products which are based on this research and identified additional characteristics. Consideration has also been given to the structural characteristics of sports betting products.24

A further complexity arises when considering the way that 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 ‘fair and open’ objective, 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 machines25 and scratchcards.26 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.

However, 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 - What the Gambling Commission will focus on

To better understand product characteristics and risk, the Commission will focus on:

  • gaining greater access to operator-held account-level data to further explore patterns of play
  • using secondary analyses of existing datasets to further our understanding of product risk.


22Gambling behaviour in Great Britain in 2016: Evidence from England, Scotland and Wales (PDF), prepared by NatCen for the Gambling Commission, 2018.

23Key issues in product-based harm minimisation: Examining theory, evidence and policy issues relevant in Great Britain (opens in new tab), Jonathan Parke, Adrian Parke and Alex Blaszczynski, 2016.

24Structural characteristics of fixed-odds sports betting products (opens in new tab), Philip Newall, Alex Russell and Nerilee Hing, Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Volume 10, Issue 3, pages 371 to 380.

25Government to cut Fixed Odds Betting Terminals maximum stake from £100 to £2 (opens in new tab), Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2018.

26Rationale 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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