Ben Haden: Wider perspectives needed to improve research on gambling prevalence 

Ben Haden – UKGC

At the start of 2021, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) launched a pilot scheme to test new research methodologies on how data is collected on the participation and engagement of UK adults with gambling products and services. 

Project lead Ben Haden, the Commission’s Director of Research and Statistics, has shared his reflections on the pilot’s first-stage developments, which will be critical in establishing how data and statistics are gathered for UK gambling.

Haden marked the pilot as a ‘significant moment’, moving the Commission from thinking ‘what we should do?’ – to taking positive steps to make change.

“We are looking to modernise the questionnaire, increase frequency and flexibility so we can understand and respond to changes better and faster,” Haden remarked on the pilot’s mandate.

“It is all about continuing to improve the statistics we rely on to make decisions and demonstrate our impact.”  

Phase-1 of the pilot has focused on how new methodologies will impact the results of previous approaches. The assessment and reflection of previous UK gambling research methods are required prior to the start of the pilot’s  ‘experimental phase’ in 2022.

Haden has welcomed the oversight of the NatCen Consortium, in helping the Commission develop and expand new research methodologies. The UKGC has previously worked with the NatCen social research unit to evaluate the credit card wagering ban enforced as of April 2020.

Leading the pilot’s development, Haden acknowledged that “we won’t have all the good ideas, the right experience or the varied perspectives that will help us with the tricky challenges and the difficult trade-offs that we have ahead to get to an accessible, expansive questionnaire (that isn’t too long)”.

The Commission’s research unit will therefore continue to engage widely with stakeholders. A series of workshops was launched to gather critical feedback from academics, policy partners, industry representatives and those with lived experience of gambling harms.

Workshop feedback reflected a common concern of the balancing act required to settle information gathered by questionnaire – “seeing where it could help answer some questions and where we need to recognise that it would be better to get information from different sources”.

Furthermore, the UKGC’s research unit has gathered helpful perspectives by questions raised on product complexities and player’s personal preferences “such as in-play; how we capture respondent feelings about their play – positive and negative; and how we ensure the questions are as relevant for everyone

Haden concluded his notice, by reminding all relevant stakeholders to participate in the NatCen measuring gambling prevalence survey, where they will be able to submit their individual perspectives – “no one has all the answers but I’m sure you’ll have something that someone else hasn’t thought of”.

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