Understanding gambling research statistics
The respective roles of Gambling Commission participation and problem gambling prevalence surveys
The Gambling Commission publishes official statistics for gambling participation and the prevalence of problem and at-risk gambling along with a variety of other gambling-related consumer data, in accordance with its duties set out in the Gambling Act. All Commission research that has the status of official statistics is gathered in accordance with common national standards outlined in the Code of Practice for Statistics.
It is important that statistics producers collaborate to ensure statistics are coherent wherever possible and avoid the risk of confusing public debate and decision-making.
This page provides a short introduction to each of our surveys and the respective roles they play in contributing to our understanding of consumer gambling behaviour in Great Britain. More information about problem gambling screens and understanding gambling-related harms.
Official statistics on participation and problem gambling prevalence
The following Gambling Commission surveys have the status of official statistics:
- Health Surveys (comprising the Health Survey for England, the Scottish Health Survey and equivalent questions on the National Survey for Wales)
- Quarterly Telephone Survey
- Online Tracker Survey
- Young People and Gambling Survey
Please see our research library for access to the reports for each of these official statistics.
The Commission periodically includes questions on gambling participation and the prevalence of problem and at-risk gambling on the Health Survey for England (HSE), the Scottish Health Survey (SHeS) and similar surveys in Wales (currently, the National Survey for Wales). The Health Surveys were identified as the most suitable vehicles for the inclusion of gambling content following the cessation of the British Gambling Prevalence Survey (BGPS) series in 2010. The surveys were identified via a large-scale internal review of available vehicles and a public consultation.
The HSE and SHeS are large-scale, nationally representative face-to-face household surveys which explore various aspects of physical and mental health. They are the Department of Health’s and Scottish Government’s main measures of health in the population. The gambling content of the surveys is collected via self-completion booklets which are handed out to respondents during the face to face interviews.
The National Survey for Wales is carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and covers a sample of approximately 12,000 people across Wales. The survey covers topics such as health, schools, sports, culture, and the local area.
The primary focus of these surveys is to measure problem gambling prevalence according to both the full Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) screens. The surveys also gather information on participation in gambling activities in the last 12 months. Where possible, the data from the three surveys is combined to produce a Great Britain report. Due to the high quality random-probability sampling approach used and the large sample sizes, these reports should be viewed as providing our most robust measures of problem and at risk gambling prevalence in Great Britain.
These surveys do, however, have a long lead time of c.12-18 months from inception to final reporting, and the gambling content on these surveys is typically included only every two years, meaning rates cannot be tracked regularly through these methods.
Quarterly Telephone Survey
The Commission also conducts a quarterly telephone survey which is intended to bridge the gap between Health Survey releases by providing more regular measures of adult gambling participation and problem gambling. The survey covers a nationally representative sample of c.1,000 adults aged 16 and above each quarter and data is reported on a rolling 12-month basis.
The key participation and prevalence data collected are participation in gambling activities within the past four weeks and problem gambling prevalence according to the short-form Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). Headline participation and prevalence data are published on a quarterly basis while the telephone survey content also contributes to our annual report on gambling participation, behaviour, awareness, and attitudes.
Online Tracker Survey
The online survey is designed to provide a more detailed understanding of how consumers engage with online gambling products and to allow exploration of topical issues. The survey covers a nationally representative sample of c.2,000 adults aged 18 and over each quarter.
The online survey complements the telephone survey and contributes to our annual report on gambling participation, behaviour, awareness, and attitudes.
Young People & Gambling Survey
The Commission also conducts an annual survey of c.3,000 11-16 year olds in Great Britain, exploring their participation in gambling activities, their attitudes towards gambling, and problem and at risk gambling prevalence according to the youth-adapted version of the DSM-IV screen.
Other consumer research
Where appropriate, we conduct additional research which does not have the status of official statistics but can help to enhance our understanding of consumer gambling behaviour and attitudes. These projects include an exploration of why people gamble and how it fits into their lives and research to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on consumers.
Comparisons between different surveys
In addition to the Gambling Commission’s own research, a wide range of consumer research is conducted about gambling and related topics on behalf of a variety of organisations. We recognise the role that other research studies can play in adding to the evidence base and advancing understanding of the many and diverse issues around consumer gambling behaviour.
However, it is very important to exercise caution when making comparisons between different surveys (including Gambling Commission statistics) as a wide range of factors can influence the validity of such comparisons, including (but not limited to):
- Survey methodology
- Sample definition and design
- Question wording and sequencing
- The timing of the research
We encourage any questions about the comparability and coherence of gambling research and statistics to be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Review of our approach to measuring participation and problem gambling prevalence
As part of our strategic priority to prevent gambling harm to consumers and the public, the Commission’s Business Plan 2020-21 includes a commitment to review our approach to measuring participation and problem gambling prevalence and publish our conclusions.
We acknowledge that the Commission currently uses a range of different surveys to gather data on participation and the prevalence of problem gambling. The overall objective of the review is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our current methods, and to ensure that we select the most effective approach to provide high quality and timely data in the future.