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Consultation response

Participation and prevalence research

From December 2020 to February 2021 we consulted on the proposals to change how we collect adult gambling participation and problem gambling prevalence statistics.

Introduction - participation and prevalence research

The Gambling Commission

The Gambling Commission exists to safeguard consumers and the wider public by ensuring that gambling is fair and safe. We place consumers at the heart of regulation and maintain the integrity of the gambling industry.

Our work is underpinned by two main pieces of legislation:

  • the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in a new tab) which sets the framework for the regulation of gambling in Britain
  • the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 which sets out the framework within which we regulate the National Lottery.

Under section 26 of the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in a new tab), the Commission has responsibility for collecting and disseminating information relating to the extent and impact of gambling in Great Britain. In order to do this, we collect gambling participation and problem gambling prevalence data via surveys of adults in Great Britain and the data is published as official statistics – meaning they are produced in accordance with the standards set out by the Government Statistical Service in the Code of Practice for Statistics.

We are also responsible for a wider programme of both quantitative and qualitative research which does not constitute core official statistics, but which helps us to build a better understanding of consumer gambling behaviour, attitudes and harms. Although some of this work is outside the scope of this consultation, we remain committed to driving this forward.

Consultation proposals and background

The Commission is ambitious about improving the quality, robustness and timeliness of our statistics. Timely, robust measurement of consumer gambling behaviour is critical to identify trends to help prioritise focus (for example take-up of new gambling and gambling-style products), to measure levels of risk and harm to consumers (via problem gambling screens) and to monitor the impact of policy changes. We therefore set out a commitment in our 2020/21 Business Plan to ‘review our approach to measuring participation and prevalence and publish conclusions’.

Our intention is to develop a single, high quality methodology to measure participation and prevalence which will be more efficient, cost effective and timely, helping to better inform us of the impact of policy changes and provide an ongoing foundation for evidence-based decision making. We believe that a new approach will enable us to set the standard for authoritative research into gambling.

Recognising gambling as a public health issue, there are a number of important areas which are linked to the methodology review but are considered out of scope of this consultation:

Our National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms sets out the aim to identify a robust means of measuring harm and we are committed to doing what we can (with the resources we have available) to build and contribute to this evidence base. We have started a pilot of new survey questions on harm. As this work is currently in progress, the specific means of measuring harm is not within the consultation scope.

Longitudinal research:

In 2019 we commissioned NatCen to conduct a scoping review and recommend potential approaches to setting up a longitudinal survey to better understand movement in and out of experiencing gambling issues over the longer term and we are considering next steps. However longitudinal research is not in the scope of this consultation as the research aims of the two projects are not sufficiently aligned to be taken forward as one piece of work.

Reaching specific populations:

Surveys which are sampled from residential addresses can exclude certain population groups. Sufficient coverage of all groups without residential addresses would be very expensive and is also considered out of scope.

In December 2020 we launched a consultation to gather views on proposals to move towards a new method of data collection for adult gambling participation and problem gambling prevalence statistics in Great Britain. The consultation opened on 18 December 2020 and closed on 26 February 2021.

We received 62 valid responses to the consultation, from the following categories of respondents, details of which can be seen in Annex A.

  • Member of the public: 37 responses
  • Academia: 7 responses
  • Gambling operator: 5 responses
  • Charity/not for profit: 3 responses
  • Trade association: 2 responses
  • Other: 8 responses (including representatives from Ipsos MORI, NatCen, YouGov and the Office for National Statistics)

We received 11 responses which had been submitted in relation to another consultation that was active at the time, these have been removed from the responses considered as part of our consultation response.

Additional context: GambleAware methodology review

In addition to the consultation responses, the following position statements also take into account GambleAware’s recently published Gambling Prevalence Methodology Review (opens in a new tab).

The GambleAware review intends to help refine its approach to collecting data on the measurement of people seeking treatment but has similar objectives to our own consultation in terms of understanding the best way to collect data on the prevalence of gambling harms in Great Britain. GambleAware published their review on 14 May 2021.

The GambleAware review is based on research it commissioned to determine best practices for estimating the level of gambling participation and prevalence of gambling harms in Great Britain. The research analysed eight surveys – including existing Health Survey data and further surveys commissioned by GambleAware – to investigate how differences in survey methodology affect the accuracy of estimates of ‘gambling harms’.

Analysis indicated that surveys conducted wholly or primarily online tend to overestimate the prevalence of gambling harms, however given the high and rising cost of in person surveys, the review recommended that future measurement of gambling prevalence and harm should move to online surveying. Further recommendations were made that the move to online data collection should be combined with a programme of methodological testing and development to mitigate selection bias, and that in person surveying should not be ceased completely; probability sampling and face to face interviewing should be used to provide periodic benchmarks.

Next steps

Based on the high level of agreement with our proposals, and the fact that GambleAware’s methodology review also supports a move away from in-person towards online surveying1, we intend to proceed with our plans to pilot a new approach for our official statistics on participation and problem gambling prevalence in 2021/22. We will work with our advisory groups and other key stakeholders to establish an evaluation framework for the success of the pilot. We will be transparent about our process and publish findings from the pilot survey. Subject to its successful completion, we will move to implementing a new methodology on a permanent basis from 2022/23.

Alongside the participation and prevalence strand of work, we will continue with a wider programme of research and will seek to make progress in the areas identified as out of scope of the core participation and prevalence survey. We will also explore other vehicles, such as the Public Health Outcomes Framework, to which gambling questions could helpfully be added.

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Executive summary - participation and prevalence research
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Summary of responses - participation and prevalence research
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