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The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board’s advice on the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms 2019–2022

The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board’s advice on the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms 2019–2022

Published: 1 February 2019

Last updated: 8 September 2021

This version was printed or saved on: 25 May 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/guidance/the-responsible-gambling-strategy-boards-advice-on-the-national-strategy-to

Structure of this advice

This advice is structured as follows:

Part 1: Introduction and executive summary

Gambling, and the extent of the harms associated with it, is a significant public health issue for Great Britain. There has been some progress in tackling it in recent years, but not enough. We need a new, more robust approach.

We therefore welcome the Gambling Commission’s assumption of responsibility for the new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

We believe that the chances of successful outcomes for the new strategy are greater than for its predecessors, for three main reasons:

The new strategy should be built on twin pillars of prevention and treatment, supported by an effective research programme. The traditional terminology of research, education and treatment (RET) risks too narrow a focus. Prevention is much broader than education alone.

A new approach

Prevention and treatment are both supported by effective delivery of research, evaluation, and an implementation plan.

Figure showing the new approach to reducing gambling harms.

If it is to be successful, the new strategy will also need to:

Ten main recommendations about the new strategy are summarised in the following paragraphs. Many build on advice we have given previously. Others reflect activities already under consideration. We believe all work with the grain of the Gambling Commission’s three-year corporate strategy.4

Gambling is increasingly recognised as a public health issue. Recognition needs to be followed through with effective action. Gambling should be addressed in the same way as other significant public health issues – with a coherent strategy using a continuum of interventions, including some at population level, and more explicit recognition of the influences of product and environment as well as individual circumstances

We should stop making clear distinctions between ‘problem’ gamblers, those ‘at risk’ and other gamblers. There is a continuum of harm; and different people can move in and out of harm at different times.

The new strategy needs clear ownership and accountability. The Gambling Commission has both an appetite to address gambling-related harms and ability to address them. But if a continuum of prevention and treatment actions are to be brought to bear in a coherent way across Great Britain, a range of government departments and agencies need to take overall responsibility for their part of the strategy, with co-ordination from the centre.

Responsibility for the provision and quality assurance of treatment should rest with GB health departments, not, as at present, with a charity funded by voluntary donations. This will require a compulsory levy with a strong and transparent structure for the distribution of funds raised. The greater emphasis in the new NHS England Long Term Plan5 on mental health (including the need to address gambling-related harms) provides an important opportunity. The implications of a change in responsibility are complex and need to be thought through carefully. An Expert Review Group should be appointed to review how best to achieve the change and make recommendations, including how to channel funding.

The strategy requires a coherent framework of prevention initiatives. In the short-term, the Gambling Commission is well placed to oversee action from the gambling industry. But ideally ownership should be taken by GB governments, who have the greatest ability to co-ordinate action from the wide range of stakeholders necessary to implement an effective approach. Particular focus should be on those population groups at higher risk of harm, with awareness that the different characteristics of each group may require different approaches. The strategy also needs to recognise the potential importance of families and peers, supporting them in protective behaviour and helping them avoid adverse impacts from their own behaviour.

Too much emphasis on voluntary action by operators is unlikely to achieve the desired impact, or pace. The Gambling Commission needs to continue to be more active in giving guidance and leadership on, for example, interventions to be piloted or implemented more widely.

We need a further major push to embed a culture of evaluation in both prevention and treatment, focusing on impact and not just process. The Gambling Commission should review the steps already taken and identify what further could be done to explain good evaluation practice to operators, create more opportunities for independent evaluation of safer gambling initiatives and develop opportunities to share findings between operators and others. The Gambling Commission and Government should lead by example in evaluating the impact of policy and regulatory changes affecting gambling.

There are significant concerns about the potential impact of gambling advertising and marketing on vulnerable groups, particularly children and young adults. There should be further consideration of appropriate controls, applying the precautionary principle and drawing on evidence from the marketing of products like alcohol and tobacco.

The Gambling Commission should take responsibility for the commissioning of the research necessary to underpin the strategy, and resource itself accordingly. The commissioning of other research relevant to gambling should be undertaken by an arms-length body.

A compulsory levy on the industry should be introduced to replace the present voluntary arrangements and fund prevention, treatment and underpinning research on a greater scale, with a strong and transparent structure for the distribution of the funds raised.

1The proportion of people who believe gambling is ‘conducted fairly and can be trusted’ has reduced from 48.8% in 2008 to 33% in 2017. Among people who have gambled in the past twelve months, the proportion reduced from 60.7% to 37.5%. Although in 2017, the majority (64%) of people still supported the statement ‘people should have the right to gamble whenever they want’, 80% thought ‘there are too many opportunities to gamble nowadays’, 71% believed it is ‘dangerous for family life’, and 57% thought ‘gambling should be discouraged’. Only 15% supported the statement ‘on balance, gambling is good for society’ Gambling participation in 2017: behaviour, attitudes and awareness, Gambling Commission, February 2018.

2 Raising Standards for Consumers - Enforcement Report 2017–18

3 Gambling Commission takes widespread regulatory action against online casino operators and senior management, Gambling Commission, November 2018

4 Gambling Commission Strategy 2018-2021

5 NHS Long Term Plan, NHS, January 2019

Part 2: The extent of the problem and lessons learnt

Gambling-related harms impact on people’s resources, relationships and health.6 Negative effects can include loss of employment, debt, crime, breakdown of relationships and deterioration of physical and mental health. At its worst, gambling can contribute to loss of life through suicide. Harms can be experienced not just by gamblers themselves. They can also affect their children, partners, wider families and social networks, employers, communities and society as a whole.


For example:


For example:


For example:

The traditional practice of assessing the extent of gambling-related harms by reference to problem gambling prevalence rates can be misleading and hence lead to inadequate action.7 Prevalence rates fail to capture a number of important dimensions of harm, including those experienced by others than gamblers themselves. It could be even more misleading to assess the success or otherwise of a strategy by reference to changes in problem gambling prevalence rates. It is possible for substantial changes to happen in the nature or extent of gambling-related harms, in either direction, without any change in problem gambling rates. As new forms of online gambling are developing rapidly, keeping pace with the scale of change and possible harms becomes ever more of a challenge. It also makes comparisons over time, across jurisdictions and across different forms of gambling more difficult.

We suggest therefore that the new strategy moves away from a focus on problem gambling prevalence rates. It should instead have the objective of reducing gambling-related harms significantly.8

A programme to begin assessing these harms in a coherent way now exists.9 It is likely to be some time before it produces significant results. It would not be surprising, however, if it revealed considerably more harm associated with gambling than is currently recognised.

Despite their limitations, the problem gambling prevalence figures make disturbing reading:

These statistics make it difficult to avoid the conclusion that there is a serious and pervasive issue to address, even without taking into account the harms that problem gambling prevalence rates do not capture and despite the much-quoted stability in such rates. The figures relating to children are, or ought to be, particularly disturbing. Changes in approach are needed if progress is to be achieved.

Lessons from the current strategy 2016–19

We have published reports at the end of each year of the current strategy giving our view on progress. Our April 2018 report15 concluded that progress had been made in relation to a number of the priority objectives set at the beginning.

Progress has, however, been partial and/or disappointingly slow in many areas. In particular, there has been a big gap in much of the industry between rhetoric and performance. Regulatory actions have brought to light too many examples of patterns of play which ought clearly to have caused concern failing to trigger appropriate action.16

There are a number of lessons for the new strategy from the experience of the current strategy, taking these and other factors into account:

6 Measuring gambling-related harms, a framework for action, Gambling Commission, RGSB, GambleAware, November 2018. Public Health England will shortly start some work on this topic.

7 What’s the wellbeing problem with problem gamblers (opens in a new tab) What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

8 Despite its limitations, the existing practice of measuring problem gambling prevalence rates should continue as it still provides useful, if narrower, information on the scale of the problem.

99 Building on the ‘measuring gambling-related harms’ paper published in November 2018. It includes work funded by the Gambling Commission to understand the available methods to collect and analyse relevant data on harms.

10 Gambling behaviour in Great Britain in 2016, Health Survey England (HSE), Scottish Health Survey (SHeS) and the Wales Omnibus, 2016.

11 Young People and Gambling 2018, Gambling Commission, November 2018

12 Gambling Behaviour in Great Britain in 2016. The confidence interval for the estimated number of moderate risk gamblers in the population is 0.9% to 1.5%, meaning we can be 95% confident that the true estimate of moderate risk gamblers in the population is somewhere between 420,000 and 710,000.The term ‘moderate risk’ does not refer to people who might become problem gamblers, but to those who are already suffering a moderate level of harm. The impact of internet gambling on gambling problems: A comparison of moderate-risk and problem Internet and non-Internet gamblers. Gainsbury, S. M., Russell, A., Hing, N., Wood, R., & Blaszczynski, A. (2013). Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2013 and Measuring the Burden of Gambling Harm in New Zealand, Browne et al Ministry of Health, 2017

13 Gambling Behaviour in Great Britain in 2016, Health Survey England (HSE), Scottish Health Survey (SHeS) and the Wales Omnibus, 2016

14 An economic and social review of gambling in Great Britain (opens in a new tab), David Forrest, The Journal of Gambling Business and Economics, 2013

15 Two years on: progress delivering the National Responsible Gambling Strategy (opens in a new tab), RGSB, May 2018

16 Disappointingly, many of these failings have affected some of the largest, and most well-resourced operators, who might have been expected to be best placed to make significant progress

17 Encouragingly, however, GambleAware’s latest call for innovative research proposal elicited 23 bids, including some from institutions and individuals who have not bid before

18 Though there might be some useful insights about these groups to be gained from areas other than gambling studies

19 Some treatment organisations, such as Gordon Moody (opens in a new tab) have recognised the need to develop services specifically designed to meet the needs of women

Part 3 - Prevention


Any strategy aimed at reducing gambling-related harms needs a strong and effective prevention plan. Prevention means undertaking a range of planned activities aimed at reducing risks or threats to health and preventing gambling-related harms from occurring in the first place.

Our understanding of best practice is that as well as enforcement action by the regulator, it should involve preventive measures aimed at reducing harms and risks of harm through mandatory standards, guidance and awareness raising.20

Key principles are:

20 A working model for anticipatory regulation (opens in a new tab), NESTA, November 2017

21 NHS Long Term Plan, NHS, January 2019

Recommended prevention activities

We recommend that the new strategy focuses prevention activities around the framework shown in levels of prevention activity, drawing on the suggestions made for each level of prevention in the following paragraphs.

Limited evidence should not be used a reason for inaction. It should not be necessary for the Gambling Commission to have to prove beyond doubt that a certain practice is harmful or exploitative22 before action is taken. The precautionary principle should be applied where there is good reason to believe that significant harm may be being caused. In other areas of health the decision to act is frequently informed by the precautionary principle and the need to take preventive action despite inevitable uncertainties.23

Levels of prevention activity


Actions that target and affect high risk individuals.


Actions that target and affect high risk groups.


Actions that target and affect the whole population.

22 Despite being enshrined in the 2005 Act, the concept of ‘exploitation’ is applied far less often in regulatory decision-making than that of ‘preventing harm’. It does, however, provide a useful yardstick against which to assess some industry practices

23 Identifying the environmental causes of disease: how should be decide what to believe and when to take action?Academy of Medical Science, 2007

Indicated prevention activities

Indicated prevention measures are actions which are focused on intervening with individuals at high risk of developing gambling-related harms. Prevention activities for this group are likely to include (but are not limited to):

Selective prevention activities

Selective prevention measures are those which are focused on groups or communities likely to be at higher risk of gambling-related harms. Such groups could be identified on the basis of their socio-demographic features (e.g. children or young men), economic circumstances, other health and wellbeing behaviours, interests (e.g. gaming, sports fandom, or e-sports), where people live (areas with high levels of deprivation and unemployment), ethnicity, religion or the types of products people play. Prevention activities for these different groups could include (but are not limited to):

24 GambleAware, Education, funded projects and funding requests

25 How working in a gambling venue can lead to problem gambling: the experiences of six gambling venue staff (opens in a new tab) Nerliee Hing & Helen Breen, Southern Cross University, 2008. Gambling by Ontario casino workers: gambling behaviours, problem gambling and impacts of the employment (PDF) (opens in a new tab) Daniel Guttentag et al, University of Waterloo, 2012

26 Evaluation of GambleAware’s harm minimisation programme: Demos and Fast Forward projects (PDF) (opens in a new tab) Richard Ives, September 2018

27 Gambling and problem gambling among young adults: insights from a longitudinal study of parents and children (PDF) (opens in a new tab) David Forrest & Ian McHale, September 2018

Universal prevention activities

Universal prevention measures are those which are focused on whole populations i.e. they seek to impact all gamblers – and potential gamblers – regardless of whether they are at risk. Such measures are a key component of most major public health strategies. Examples are mandatory use of seat belts, prohibition of smoking in public places, and restrictions on licensing hours for the sale of alcohol. Such measures have been proven to deliver significant public health benefits. Securing a meaningful reduction in gambling-related harms through the new strategy is also likely to require consideration of further population level measures.

Universal measures relating to gambling could include (but are not limited to):

28 Technical Standards Gambling Commission

29 ‘Up-selling’ to customers in gambling is not the same as in retailing

Facilitators and barriers to success

The current evidence base on what works in gambling-related harms prevention is thin.30 The development, testing, and delivery of a prevention strategy will therefore require the joint efforts of a range of stakeholders – voluntary sector organisations working with high risk groups, local authorities with responsibility for public health, operators with their real time access to gamblers, financial institutions who can help set limits on gambling losses, the regulator and central government.

The success of some prevention measures will depend heavily on the industry. Progress in this area has not yet gone far enough, nor been sufficiently embedded in common practice across all parts of the industry. The Gambling Commission could encourage faster progress by:

30 Though there may be more to learn from the experience of other jurisdictions, like Victoria, Australia, which has a more well-developed prevention strategy. The National Institute for Health Research is shortly to commence an evidence review which will provide an opportunity to explore these approaches in greater depth.

Families and others affected by someone else’s gambling

The partners of people who gamble harmfully, their children, their wider family and friends and other social contacts, can also be harmed. There can be multiple knock-on effects, including reduced household budgets, less visible negative effects on personal relationships and, at the extreme, families dealing with the consequences of suicide. Some work has been done to address these harms in the recent past.31 The objective for the new strategy should be to consolidate and systematise the work, build awareness and broaden the resources and interventions available in family settings and beyond.

Causation is not always linear in nature, and direct impacts are rarely clear-cut. Gambling behaviours modelled in families and peer groups affect the gambling behaviour of others. In particular, parents have more influence than they might realise on affecting their children’s behaviour.32 Their actions can either increase the risk of harmful gambling by their children or play a protective role.33

An effective harm-prevention strategy needs to recognise these complex relationships and help families and peer groups play a more protective role and avoid transmitting risk to younger generations. Support and awareness raising could help them play a protective role more effectively. We suggested in a previous advice paper on children, young people and gambling34 that this should include helping parents to know what their children are doing online – especially if this involves gambling with ‘skins’ or ‘gambling-like activities’ which may have the effect of normalising gambling for children.35 Recent moves by the Gambling Commission and regulators in other countries to address these new challenges have been a positive development.36

31 GambleAware funds support for family and friends of problem gamblers (PDF) (opens in a new tab) GambleAware, October 2018

32 Beginning gambling: the role of social networks and environment (opens in a new tab) Gerda Reith and Fiona Dobby, University of Glasgow, January 2011

33 Gambling in families: a study on the role and influence of family and parental attitudes and behaviours on gambling-related harm in young people (opens in a new tab) Ecorys, September 2018 & Perceptions, people and place: Findings from a rapid review of qualitative research on youth gambling (opens in a new tab) Dr Heather Wardle, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, October 2018

34 Children, young people and gambling: A case for Action (PDF) (opens in a new tab) RGSB, June 2018

35 Virtual currencies, eSports and social casino gaming – position paper (PDF) Gambling Commission 2017

36International concern over blurred lines between gambling and video games Gambling Commission, September 2018

Gambling marketing and advertising

Any comprehensive prevention strategy needs to look carefully at the potential for harm associated with gambling marketing and advertising. A very large increase in the volume of such marketing and advertising is one of the more obvious developments since the 2005 Act. The greatest increase in recent years has been online – £747million was spent marketing online in 2017.37 Operators now spend five times more on online marketing than they do on television advertising.

There is no clear published evidence that greater exposure to gambling advertising has led to measurable increases in gambling-related harms.38 But the absence of proof is not, of course, proof of absence.39 We share the concerns that have been expressed about the potential impact of this exposure to gambling marketing and advertising. We have also yet to fully understand how marketing and advertising are linked to the rise in so called ‘gamblification’ of football and other sports.40 The innovative and fast-moving nature of the gambling industry means that considerable harm could have been caused before robust evidence of its causes is available.

Our concerns focus on three main groups:

Children and young people

Although the number of television advertisements children see has decreased,41 overall exposure is still high. A Gambling Commission survey shows 66% of 11 to 16-year-olds42 recall having seen gambling advertising on television, 59 per cent on social media websites and 53% on other websites.4312 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds follow gambling companies on social media. 7% of children who had seen gambling advertisements or sponsorship report that they had been prompted to spend money on gambling when they were not otherwise planning to do so.44 This equates to 5% of all 11 to 16-year-olds, or around 200,000 in total.45 There is also evidence in international literature of young people saying that advertising creates a context that makes them believe that they cannot enjoy sport without betting.46

18 to 21-year-olds

There is a high incidence of new onset problem gambling between the ages of 18 and 20.47 It is likely that a complex range of factors are responsible. Exposure to high volumes of advertising and marketing in childhood and adolescence could be one of them. In the absence of evidence, we do not know.

Exposure to marketing and advertising is a particular difficulty by people experiencing or recovering from problematic gambling at a stage when they are highly vulnerable to harm and struggling to control their gambling behaviour.48

The precautionary principle might suggest targeted action to reduce exposure to gambling marketing and advertising for all these groups – particularly children, who in an ideal world should not be exposed to it at all. But the widespread nature of online marketing, sponsorship and advertising, particularly at sports events, and the range of media where this content currently appears, makes such action challenging in practice.

This does not, however, mean that a blanket ban on gambling marketing and advertising is the only available policy response. There are other, more targeted steps which could be worth considering as part of a new approach to prevention. For example:

37 This figure excludes affiliate marketing and on social media. Gambling Advertising and Marketing Spend 2014- 17 (opens in a new tab) Regulus Partners, 2018

38 Gambling Advertising: A critical review (opens in a new tab) Per Binde, 2014. Further research on this topic will shortly be published by the University of Sterling and Ipsos MORI (opens in a new tab)

39 Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (opens in a new tab) US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, Altman and Bland, 1995

40 Beyond the betting shop: Youth, masculinity and the growth of online sports gambling (opens in a new tab), University of Bath, Darragh McGhee, June 2018

41 Children’s exposure to age-restricted TV ads, ASA, February 2019

42 Young people and gambling (PDF) - a research study among 11–16-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales, Gambling Commission, November 2018

43 Exposure within television broadcasts is also prominent. Research showed that gambling logos or branding appeared on between 71% and 89% of the running time of Match of the Day (the BBC’s Premier League highlights show). Frequency, duration and medium of advertisements for gambling and other risky products in commercial and public service broadcasts of English Premier League football (opens in a new tab) Rebecca Cassidy and Niko Ovenden, Goldsmiths, University of London, August 2017

44 Young people and gambling (PDF) - a research study among 11-16-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales, November 2018

45 Based on Office for National Statistics 2017 mid-year estimates – subject to some caveats e.g. how representative the survey results are of 11-16 year-olds in forms of education which do not take part in the omnibus survey

46 Young people’s awareness of the timing and placement of gambling advertisement on traditional and social platform: a study of 11–16 year-olds in Australia (PDF) (opens in a new tab), Samantha Thomas et al, Harm Reduction Journal, 2018

47 Gambling and problem gambling among young adults: insights from a longitudinal study of parents and children (PDF) (opens in a new tab) David Forrest and Ian McHale, September 2018

48 Gambling Advertising: A critical review (opens in a new tab) Per Binde. 2014

49 Using grounded theory to understand problem gambling and harm minimisation opportunities in remote gambling (opens in a new tab) Dr Jonathan Park & Dr Adrian Parke, Sophro & University of Lincoln, 2018

Existing protections for children and young people

Some restrictions already exist on the exposure of young children to gambling advertising and marketing. The main one is the so-called 25 per cent rule. Broadly speaking, gambling advertising must not appear in media where children or young people make up a disproportionately high proportion of the audience.50 The figure is set at 25 per cent to reflect the approximate proportion of the population who are under 18. If a higher proportion is viewing particular media, advertising there is considered deliberate targeting and in principle is banned. The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) also require marketeers to use tools available to them on social media to ensure content is targeted at an age-appropriate audience.51

There are three main limitations with this approach:

50 A rule to the achieve a similar effect, the 120 Index, applies to broadcast media - Identifying TV programmes likely to appeal to children (opens in a new tab), Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)

51 Children : Targeting (opens in a new tab) Online advice, ASA, August 2018

52 Mid-2017 Report (opens in a new tab) Office for National Statistics, June 2018

Part 4 - Treatment and support

Treatment and support

Treatment and support for those affected by gambling-related harms involves a continuum of services – information, online resources, self-help (e.g. Gamblers Anonymous), help with stimulus control, online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)53 and other forms of counselling as well as pharmacological treatment delivered in clinical settings.

Continuum of treatment services – reflecting range of support needs

Information Awareness raising Online resources

Self-help Advice Helpline support

Counselling Online CBT

Clinical treatment

A figure showing the continuum of treatment services which reflects a range of support needs

There are a number of significant weaknesses in the present arrangements for delivery of treatment services to those who need them. The new strategy, and the announcement of expanded support for problem gamblers as part of the greater prominence being given to mental health and well-being in the new NHS 10-year plan,54 present a significant opportunity to address those weaknesses.

In our view there needs to be an urgent national review of the arrangements for commissioning, funding and quality assuring treatment for gambling-related harms to make sure this opportunity is not lost, with a view to handing responsibility for oversight to the GB health departments.

53 The predictive capacity of DSM-5 symptom severity and impulsivity on response to cognitive-behavioral therapy for gambling disorder: A 2-year longitudinal study (opens in a new tab), Mestre-Bach et al, European Psychiatry, January 2019

54 The NHS Long Term Plan: 10 key public health points (opens in a new tab) Public Health Matters, Public Health England, January 2019

Recent developments in treatment

GambleAware has made a number of important changes in relation to treatment during the current strategy period. Among other things:

A number of important issues, however, still need to be addressed:

Treatment spend on different addictions in England 2016/1765

A graph showing the treatment spend on different addictions in England 2016-2017

It is our view that, despite the progress that has been made, GambleAware as a small, independent charity does not have the scale of expertise necessary to commission specialised services, assure their quality and safety and deal with these other issues in the most effective way. Nor is it reasonable to expect it to do so, particularly when the relevant framework and expertise already exists elsewhere, on a much greater scale. It would make much more sense for the national, comprehensive and fully quality-assured service we believe to be necessary for the treatment of gambling-related harms to be part of the NHS and social care architecture, with overall responsibility resting with GB health departments and public health agencies.

In saying this we are not intending to diminish the role of local partners in the voluntary sector and elsewhere. Such partners can be catalysts for change, particularly where there is an appetite for more coherent local strategies for prevention and treatment combined. Our belief is that these networks would be more effective if they were commissioned, funded and monitored by the GB health departments, either directly or through local authorities, in the same way as other addiction services.

The details of how best to organise gambling-related harm treatment services in the NHS requires further thought. There are obvious issues of inter-relationships, legal framework, finance etc. which would have to be addressed through the review we have suggested.

55 Research programme 2018-22 - In support of the National Responsible Gambling Strategy (PDF) (opens in a new tab), Gambling Commission

56 Annual Review 2017/18 (PDF) (opens in a new tab), GambleAware

57 Leeds and York Partnership NHS Trust website – news (opens in a new tab)

58 Treatment delivery gap analysis (a needs assessment for treatment services), Research Brief (PDF) (opens in a new tab) Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, May 2018

59 RSPH launches free access e-learning (opens in a new tab) GambleAware, November 2018 and GambleAware invests £1.5million in partnership with Citizens Advice (PDF) (opens in a new tab), September 2018

60 GambleAware announces initiative to promote services across Aberdeen (PDF) (opens in a new tab), GambleAware, November 2018

61 In 2017/18 around 8,800 individuals received treatment for their gambling problems from GambleAware-funded providers (GambleAware Annual Review 2017/18 – page 20) (PDF) (opens in a new tab). This represents approximately 2.6 percent of the 340,000 who are classified as problem gamblers in Great Britain in the latest data published (PDF) by the Gambling Commission in September 2018. Some others may, however, be accessing help in other ways, for example through self-help groups like Gamblers Anonymous

62 6 percent of people with alcohol dependence receive treatment, and 30 percent of people with drug dependence. 2016-17. Prevalence statistics from: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2014 (opens in a new tab), NHS Digital, September 2016. Treatment statistics from: Adult substance misuse statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 (page 5) (PDF) (opens in a new tab), Public Health England, Department of Health, November 2017

63 Treatment expenditures statistics from: 2016-2017 Alcohol and Drugs Treatment Commissioning Tool – Guidance Document (PDF) (opens in a new tab) Public Health England

64 However, NHS research on this client group does not currently cover gambling-related harms and so there is a risk that their needs are not adequately being understood or addressed. Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2017 (opens in a new tab), NHS Digital, November 2018

65 All alcohol and drug dependence figures are based on England 2016/17 only (adults aged 18+). Problem gambling treatment spend is based on Great Britain 2016/17 (adults aged 18+) Problem gambling prevalence figure is based on Great Britain 2016 (adults aged 16+)

Other aspects of a new treatment strategy

Other issues to be addressed in a new treatment strategy, include the following. Some could be introduced fairly quickly, in advance of subsequent more fundamental change:

66 Some research (PDF) (opens in a new tab) is underway to analyse the limited available data and develop methodologies for collecting more evidence to understand this issue better

67 Research projects (opens in a new tab), GambleAware

Part 5 - Infrastructure


Good policy is underpinned by sound evidence. That in turn requires good data, a sizeable, consistent and reliable flow of funding and a large enough pool of researchers able and willing to respond to invitations to tender for commissioned research, or prepared to identify useful research topics on their own initiative.

The present arrangements, though considerably improved over the last few years, fall short in all three respects:

In addition, the current arrangements for delivering research directly underpinning the national strategy involve an unnecessary two-step process which requires GambleAware to commission and manage projects on behalf of the Gambling Commission (which writes the research briefs and sets the research questions with advice from the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board).

We believe these arrangements need to change. It is unusual for a statutory regulator to rely on a charity to carry out research commissioning on its behalf. Dividing responsibilities between three different bodies creates inefficiencies which can delay the pace of progress and an additional tier of decision making is created by GambleAware’s Research Committee.

In our view the new strategy should require:

68 Research is being carried out on patterns of play (opens in a new tab) which will provide recommendations on the data which could be made available in such a repository


The new strategy will also require a regular and predictable flow of funding.

The volume of funding will inevitably have to be increased if:

The current arrangements are unsustainable. Their voluntary nature of the arrangements means that the amount received is uncertain and therefore difficult to plan against and the overall quantum of funding raised is insufficient to meet the level of need set out in our advice. A number of organisations and individuals perceive ethical difficulties in receiving money directly from the industry; and it would not be easy to scale up voluntary contributions very quickly or proportionately to what is needed.

A compulsory levy would help to address all these issues. It would be more efficient to collect and distribute. Volumes would be predictable and levels could be linked to what is needed. It would also be fairer by eliminating free-riders.

The legislation for a compulsory levy already exists in the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in a new tab). The relevant provision can be activated by secondary legislation; and most of the industry trade associations are now in favour. We believe there to be strong arguments for now bringing it into operation.

The mechanics of how to distribute funding provided by a compulsory levy require further thought, including as part of the review of treatment provision we suggested previously.

Part 6 - Conclusion

We have argued that there is both a compelling need for a different approach in the new strategy to reduce gambling-related harms and a real opportunity to use it to make a significant difference to the volume of harm experienced by the population of Great Britain.

We have put forward the key features of such a strategy. In our view it requires:

Changes in mindset

Much greater focus on harms as a whole, less emphasis on problem gambling prevalence rates, effective follow through on the notion of gambling as a public health issue, to be addressed in the same way as other public health issues, and greater recognition of the influence of product and environment as well as individual behaviour

Changes in organisation

Responsibility for the commissioning and oversight of treatment to be taken by the UK health departments, following an independent review, and responsibility for commissioning research underpinning the strategy to be taken directly by the Gambling Commission.

Changes in the approach to prevention

A more coherent framework in which priorities can be established in relation to need and effectiveness and interventions made at a variety of different levels, consistent with a public health approach. In the short-term it is most practical for this to be overseen by the Gambling Commission, but ideally government departments are best placed to initiate action from a broad range of agencies, particularly those outside the gambling industry.

Changes in implementation

An effective delivery plan, involving a wide range of organisations and experts by experience, guidance and direction from the Gambling Commission, and industry and others taking further steps to apply and evaluate what works.

Changes in funding

A compulsory levy to provide an increased volume of stable and predictable funding.

Some of these things could be done fairly quickly. Others will take more time to implement, particularly those involving institutional changes. The implementation plan will need to give careful thought to how the transition should be managed.

There will be changes in our own role. We will shortly no longer be the ‘owner’ of the National Strategy and the strategy itself is to be renamed. Our current title – the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board – will soon become inappropriate. We propose a new name is agreed to better reflect our role contributing to achieving a Great Britain free from the consequences of gambling-related harms.