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National Strategic Assessment 2020

This report sets out our latest assessment of the issues we face and the risks that gambling poses to consumers and the public

  1. Contents
  2. The person gambling
  3. Gaps in the evidence and understanding of gambling related harms

Gaps in the evidence and understanding of gambling related harms

Building and maintaining a first-rate evidence base on gambling harms is essential to inform effective regulation.

The national Health Surveys across Great Britain23 look at changes in the health and lifestyle of people and, where possible, include questions on gambling participation and problem gambling. The Health Surveys provide robust, high quality data; however, they are typically able to include gambling questions only every 2-3 years, and the speed of reporting is relatively slow. The most recent Health Survey data relates to England and Wales in 2018, however the last combined Great Britain report was published based on 2016 data.

To ensure a more up-to-date picture and to fill in evidence gaps between Health Surveys, we conduct a quarterly telephone survey (nationally representative of adults in Great Britain), amongst other research, to see how behaviour is changing and the impact of regulatory changes to the industry24.

GC action

We will launch a review of our approach of tracking participation in gambling and the prevalence of at-risk and problem gambling. This review will examine options for consolidating the multiple survey vehicles currently used into a single robust, efficient and flexible approach. We will be publishing a consultation to seek input from interested parties including experts in the field later this year, and we will start implementing outcomes in 2021.

Gambling-related harms are the adverse impacts from gambling on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and society25. These harms affect resources, relationships and both physical and mental health.

GC action

We will establish a permanent Experts by Experience advisory group to build on the valuable input provided by our interim arrangements.

Collectively, we are moving away from solely counting the number of problem gamblers in the population, towards also developing approaches to comprehensively measure the different harms caused by gambling.

The current practice of assessing the extent of gambling-related harms by problem gambling prevalence rates can be misleading. Prevalence rates fail to capture important dimensions of harm, including those experienced by others than gamblers themselves (affected others). This means they are potentially underestimating the scale of harm.

Understanding and measuring gambling- related harms should therefore be one of the top priorities for everyone involved in gambling.

GC action

We are piloting a new set of questions on our quarterly online omnibus survey to understand the public’s experience of gambling-related harms. This work builds on the framework of harms devised by academics in 2018. The first wave of this survey data was collected in June, with further waves to be completed by December. Subject to appropriate validation this data will provide valuable insight into the type, severity and extent of gambling harm being experienced and provide a rich dataset to sit alongside more regular tracking of problem and at-risk gambling rates.

Longitudinal research is a potential component of the programme of work to understand and measure gambling-related harms.

GC action

We will scope feasibility of a longitudinal study of gambling behaviours and problem gambling to inform the next steps on improving research into gambling.


23Health Survey for England, Scottish Health Survey, supplemented by a similar survey in Wales (currently the National Survey for Wales)

24More detail about the Gambling Commission’s official statistics on gambling participation and prevalence.

25Measuring gambling-related harms: A framework for action, Wardle and Reith et al (2018)

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