Progress Report on the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms
Framework for measuring harm reduction
Gambling harms have a negative impact on individuals’ lives and on society as a whole. Action is needed to measure these and ensure the strategy is achieving an impact on the most significant areas of harm.
As the National Strategy moves into its second year – a clearer articulation of the priority harms to measure should be created. This new framework would be designed to improve how we measure impact of the National Strategy. It would also address some of the concerns raised in the National Audit Office (NAO)Report89 about an absence of measures to demonstrate the impact achieved by the Gambling Commission through its regulatory work.
With reference to published descriptions of harms, we have identified those that constitute the greatest priority because of their impact on individuals, families and communities:
Recommended priority gambling harms:
- Gambling related suicides
- Gambling-related debt
- Gambling-related homelessness
- Gambling-related loss of employment
- Gambling-related domestic violence
- Gambling-related crimes
- Gambling-related impact on mental health.
Progress will require:
- Agreeing priority areas, baseline metrics and targets for reducing harms. Areas where there are currently no baseline metrics should have plans in place to make these measurable by the end of Year 2 and implemented by the end of Year 3.
- Partnership working with agencies that are well positioned to collect relevant data. The Commission works with other regulators for example, financial and advertising regulators as well as health bodies, coroners, the criminal justice system, the NHS across Great Britain and third sector organisations. More could also be done with banks and financial institutions to secure baseline data on gambling expenditure and gambling related suicides.
- Avoiding allowing the complexity of causality and attribution getting in the way of work to gather and analyse data. We understand the importance of considering cause and effect – but this will only be understood through more data, more research, and more engagement with those who have experienced these harms themselves.
- The issue of funding needs to be addressed. For too long limited progress has been made, despite the existence of detailed frameworks90,91, Longer-term, progress will need a funding system that can support more research on these topics and facilitate this through research councils which have so far not been adequately involved in funding research on gambling related harms.
We should start by establishing baseline data, with a view to setting targets for harm reduction over time. The harms prioritised above will require actions by specific agencies.
The National Strategy is also clear that projects should be evaluated for impact. Through these evaluations, ideally, we would like to see evidence of impact in these high-level areas of harms. This will often be challenging, as impact of harms will often be significantly downstream of the intervention itself. But focusing on some priority areas would give these evaluations increased focus on priority areas of harm.
89 Gambling Regulation: Problem Gambling and Protecting Vulnerable People, National Audit Office, February 2020
90 Understanding gambling related harm: a proposed definition, conceptual framework, and taxonomy of harms, Langham et al, BMC Public Health, 2016
91 Measuring gambling-related harms: a framework for action, Wardle et al, July 2018
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Last updated: 19 August 2021
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