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An image of Gambling Commission head of statistics Helen Bryce

Gambling Survey for Great Britain Experimental data release – better data will lead to better regulation

Our head of statistics Helen Bryce talks through the data released for the Gambling Survey for Great Britain.

Posted 23 November 2023 by Helen Bryce

It was almost three years ago that we first set out our ambitions to improve the way we collect data on adult gambling participation and the prevalence of problem gambling in Great Britain via a public consultation. The consultation was the starting point for the development of the Gambling Survey for Great Britain and over the last three years we have invested significant resources - money, people and time – and worked alongside experts in the field to develop the best consumer gambling survey that we can. Through our stakeholder engagement panels we have also made sure to keep industry, those with lived experience, academics and policy makers and others informed at every step of the journey. It is a significant milestone we have reached today in being able to publish the findings from the final step in the experimental stage of the project.

These findings, which are still classed as being experimental, or as the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) now calls them ‘Official Statistics in Development’, provide insight into gambling behaviours across Great Britain gathered using a push to web survey methodology. Importantly, as well as modernising the way we ask people to take part in the survey, one of the other things we set out to achieve with this project was to update the way we ask about gambling participation. 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.

We could not have got this far in the project without the help of our stakeholders. Over 60 respondents completed the 2020 consultation, a further 70 completed a stakeholder engagement survey at the end of 2021. We have held nine stakeholder engagement panel sessions where we have updated on project progress and we hosted a workshop session about the new survey at our Evidence Conference in March 2023 which over 60 people attended. We have also worked closely with the government, who spoke in the white paper about the importance of regular and reliable statistics to inform policy making. All of the feedback gathered from these events has been used to inform the development of the survey and will continue to do so – because to remain relevant the survey can’t stand still.

The Experimental data and next steps

So, to tell you a little bit more about the experimental statistics we are publishing today. They are based on responses from around 4,000 respondents with data collected in April and May 2023. The purpose of publishing them is so users can become familiar with and understand the impact of new methods and approaches on the findings before they become official statistics. To help with this we have also commissioned Professor Patrick Sturgis, Professor of Quantitative Social Science at the London School of Economics, to undertake an independent review of the Gambling Survey for Great Britain methodology. We will publish his findings and recommendations early next year, ahead of the new methodology becoming our official statistics later in 2024.

The significant work we have done to update the methodology, to refresh the questions asked and the change in focus of the survey to one being solely about gambling means the results are not comparable to previous ways we have collected this sort of data. This includes our quarterly telephone survey or using data from the NHS Health Surveys. What is more is the data we release today is still experimental. So the estimate for those scoring 8+ on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) does not replace current official statistics at the moment and should not be compared to previous figures. Nor should the figure for past 4 week participation in any gambling activity. We will need to establish a new baseline against which we can track changes in gambling behaviour in Great Britain in the future. It is never easy changing the way we do things, but it is important to ensure our official statistics remain relevant as well as robust. But we are confident that with the work put in to develop and test our new methodology, allied with the scale of around 20,000 respondents a year that the Gambling Survey for Great Britain will have, we are doing everything we can to make sure our new methodology will be as relevant and robust as they can be.

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.

We believe that better evidence, driven by better data will lead to better regulation, which in turn will lead to better outcomes.

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