ABSG Progress Report on the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms – Year Two
5 - Evaluation of policy
The need to evaluate in order to understand what works is a long-standing priority. Whilst there has been ad hoc activity previously, a more systematic approach is starting to emerge.
The Commission is embedding evaluation into its implementation plans for policy changes. At the time of writing, a procurement process is being carried out to appoint an independent evaluator for the new LCCP requirement on use of credit cards46. The evaluation should tell us more than just how people’s behaviour has changed in response to this measure – but also explore the impact on reducing harms. This is a positive step, but, ideally, an evaluation would have been established from the start of the new requirement in April 2020.
There are other encouraging signs of progress. Plans to evaluate the changes to safer game design are being developed before this LCCP change is implemented in October 2021. The case study below provides more detail. A specific team within the Gambling Commission now has responsibility for establishing evaluation plans accompanying new policies. This means that all new policies will have a clearly expressed understanding of the intended changes, and a plan in place to collect the relevant data to measure this. Understanding what works is critical to longer-term success in reducing harms, and we remain concerned about the Commission’s capacity and resources to regulate a large and fast changing industry. The Gambling Act Review is an important opportunity for the Government to ensure the regulator is sufficiently resourced to expand the quantity and quality of this work.
Case study 3: Evaluation of Safer Games Design
The Gambling Commission developed a ‘theory of change’ model for this policy change – so it was clear what impact it was trying to achieve and how this would be measured47. The changes come into place in October 2021. Data is being gathered to monitor its impact. This will draw on consumer research, operational data, and compliance assessments.
In the short term, the following metrics will be used to understand impact:
- the number and proportion of sessions which last more than 60 minutes
- the number and proportion of sessions which result in a sizeable loss to the player
- changes in staking patterns.
In the longer term the Gambling Commission will assess changes to the proportion of online slots players considered as problem gamblers or in the moderate-risk category on the PGSI scale.
As shown in Case Study 4, it is also encouraging that evaluation plans are being embedded into Regulatory Settlement projects from their outset48. GREO are also assisting many aspects of this through the creation of an Evaluation Hub to build the infrastructure needed to support evaluation activity in relation to the National Strategy. This is helping smaller projects deliver their evaluations and report on impact.
Case study 4: Evaluations of Regulatory Settlement projects
An increasing number of regulatory settlement projects49 are having evaluations built in from their initiation. This means that applicants for these funds are being asked to explain how their impact will be evaluated. Plans to collect this data and report on outcomes achieved become an integral part of delivery.
An example of this is TalkBanStop - a partnership between GamCare, GamBan and GamStop50. It provides a service that combines support and advice with practical tools to help people stop their gambling – extending access to blocking software free of charge and helping self-excluders obtain the wider support they require. An evaluation plan, including a statement of intended outcomes, was built into the funding bid, and quotes from potential evaluation partners were obtained before the bid was submitted.
Beacon Counselling and ARA are delivering a regulatory settlement project in Preston and Bristol. This is targeting the South East Asian Muslim community to improve awareness of gambling harms and referral pathways available to this community. The project is running for two years and an evaluation partner was incorporated into its bid for funding. The project is working with GREO to evaluate its impact. The project intends to measure changes in awareness of gambling harms in the communities being targeted, as well as behaviour change, in terms of the impact on referrals and numbers seeking support.
46 Evaluation of the Credit Card Ban for Gambling in Great Britain (opens in new tab), GREO (accessed 13 April 2021)
47 Online games design and reverse withdrawals, evaluation of changes to slots games, Gambling Commission, February 2021
48 Destinations of regulatory settlements to be applied for socially responsible purposes, Gambling Commission (accessed 13 April 2021)
49 Destinations of regulatory settlements, Gambling Commission
50 TalkBanStop (opens in new tab) - GamCare
Metrics for measuring harm Next section
Last updated: 13 July 2023
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