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Gambling participation and the prevalence of problem gambling survey: Experimental statistics stage

Gambling Commission report produced by NatCen on the experimental statistics stage of the gambling participation and the prevalence of problem gambling survey.

Aims and overview

The purpose of the experimental statistics phase was to build on the pilot and conduct further testing and refinement, to ensure the survey design and questionnaire content is robust for official statistics continuous data collection. The experimental statistics phase involved three steps:

  1. Step 1 - experiments on participant selection and gambling-related harm questions.
  2. Step 2 - testing different approaches to asking about gambling participation.
  3. Step 3 - final test of agreed approach and content taking on board recommendations from step 1 and step 2.

Step 1

In the pilot study, there was some concern that those who gambled were more likely to self-select into the study compared with those who did not gamble. Therefore, the first experiment in step 1 examined the impact (adherence rates) of allowing up to a maximum of four adults aged 18 years and over to take part compared with restricting participation to two adults per household. Further detail and analysis is provided in the Completion rates in responding households section of this report.

The second experiment of step 1 was to assess how the gambling-related harm questions with binary and scaled-answer options performed. In the 2021 pilot study severity answer option scales ('not at all', 'a little' and 'a lot') were used for a number of the gambling-related harm questions. The distribution of responses across the answer options was not as expected. Usually, fewer people would be expected to select answer options linked to higher frequency, with the proportion selecting the answer reducing as the frequency increases. This was not the case in the pilot for these gambling-related harm questions where more participants selected 'a lot' than 'a little' for each question4.

Therefore, for this experiment, alternative answer options were tested. Households were pre-assigned to answer either the binary (yes or no) or the frequency scaled-answer options ('very often', 'fairly often', 'occasionally' and 'never') gambling-related harms questions. Further detail and analysis is provided in the Measuring gambling-related harms section of this report.

Step 2

As supported in the gambling participation and prevalence research consultation, one of the original aims for the survey was to review and refresh the gambling participation question that had been commonly used on surveys. The intention was to better reflect the current diversity of gambling products and to facilitate analysis of problem gambling prevalence at a product level. The pilot stage of the project began work reviewing the gambling participation questions by consulting stakeholders and conducting cognitive testing to explore the ways in which people understood the descriptions of gambling activities used in survey questions, identifying any misunderstandings, ambiguities and missing activities.

Step 2 of the experimental statistics stage then examined the best approach for asking questions about gambling participation and whether the way in which participants are asked about gambling participation affects the estimated gambling participation rates. To do this the list of gambling activities used to identify which gambling activities participants took part in the last 12 months was updated and the following three different approaches for asking questions about these activities were tested:

  • long-list approach
  • chunked-list approach
  • hierarchical approach.

Further detail of the approaches and the analysis conducted are provided in the Testing different approaches to asking questions about gambling participation section of this report.

In step 2, the opportunity was also taken to test the use of Quick Response (QR) codes on advance letters whereby participants could scan the QR code to directly access the questionnaire. The aim of the latter was to look at the proportion and profile of online questionnaires completed via QR codes. Further detail is provided in the Methodology and response section of this report.

This report outlines the methodology used in steps 1 and 2 of this experimental statistics phase, provides detail on the response rates achieved and the results from the methodological experiments conducted. The report concludes with recommendations for the next phase.

Following a review of steps 1 and 2, the final step of the experimental statistics phase will be the launch of step 3. Step 3 will provide the opportunity to roll out and test the finalised methodology prior to the official statistics phase. This third and final step will also include planning and setting up the reporting infrastructure for the new survey.


4 Developing survey questions capturing gambling-related harms, Heather Wardle, Viktorija Kesaite, Robert Williams, Rachel Volberg (2022).

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