GambleAware raises concerns of gambling prevalence in ‘most deprived areas’

GambleAware has revealed that participation and spend on gaming products are disproportionately concentrated in the most deprived areas of Great Britain.

This conclusion came as the charity revealed its commissioned Patterns of Play study, carried out by researchers from NatCen and Professor David Forrest and Professor Ian McHale, from the University of Liverpool. 

The data from the research includes 139,152 online gambling accounts provided by seven major operators between July 2018 and June 2019 and includes products such as slots, casino and bingo games. 

“This research adds to the growing body of evidence showing that harms from gambling are falling disproportionately on the most deprived communities,” stated Zoë Osmond, CEO, GambleAware. 

“The current cost of living crisis along with the economic fallout of the pandemic can only exacerbate this further – which underscores the need for concerted system-wide action to prevent gambling harms.

“We welcome the findings and recommendations for future public health campaigns, as we work to break down the barriers that those suffering from gambling harm face when accessing treatment and support.”

Within the report, the study stated that, though the sector relies on problem gambling rates via the Gambling Commission, to determine the gambling-related harms affecting individuals, families and friends, and society at large, the issue is that problem gambling rates focus ‘solely on gamblers’, and therefore “underestimates the full extent and number of people affected by gambling”. 

Moreover, the UKGC’s report revealed that the Patterns of Play research was carried out with data that was less aggregated/more granular and with the inclusion of betting, allowed for a richer analysis to be carried out.

It explained that an example of high level of aggregation in this date would be players’ monthly losses, which were recorded for the whole month but without detail to show how these losses were accrued. 

In addition, the study aimed to extend and build upon previous work by making use of more detailed data on online gamblers’ behaviour across a longer time period than the one month previously used. 

The report stated that, comparing the findings to those from the Health Survey for England, participation in online slots, casino and bingo games is “less widespread” than participation in online betting but stated that the prevalence of problem gambling among its players is more than twice as high. 

Though emphasising that data analysed in the present study did not allow problem gambling to be observed directly, findings which were suggestive of greater risk of harm in the industry data were further evidenced in the survey. 

People identified as problem gamblers were more likely to have spent greater amounts of money as well as to gamble on gaming products only or on both betting and gaming products in 2018/19 with their sampled accounts.

Amongst the operators participating in the study, only 25 per cent of accounts were used for both activities but these accounts generated 55% of operator revenue. 

The dual customers were heavily overrepresented amongst the highest spending accounts, for example they held more than 55 %of accounts with a loss over the year in excess of £2,000. During the study year, 3.9% of account-holders received a social responsibility contact, an email in the large majority of cases. Just 0.13 % of account-holders received a telephone call.

The report read: “Many of those who spent substantially higher amounts than average customers while online gambling in 2018-2019 will not have been people experiencing problems. 

“As with other leisure pursuits, some respondents will have greater enthusiasm than others and a strong preference for the particular activity may be reflected in high commitment in terms of money or time, with harm to no one. 

“On the other hand, spending level on gambling is known to be correlated with problem gambling status. Moreover, high spending may itself create much of the harm associated with problem gambling because so much harm arises from, or is mediated through, financial stress.”

The UKGC’s report highlighted that the follow-on survey reported in this study confirms a relationship between account spending level in 2019-2019 and the probability of recalling problems managing financially and the probability of having ever self-perceived a gambling problem. 

Moreover, the study exclaimed it’s surprise that the majority of “high spenders” were not recorded as having received a social responsibility contact during the year. It stated that just three per cent of accounts recorded a net loss of more than £2,000 during the study year. 

Of these only about one-third received any sort of intervention (such as a safer gambling message sent by email) and less than one percent were escalated to the point of a telephone call. 

The study did acknowledge that some of those not contacted may have received an intervention prior to the data period and satisfactory evidence gathered that the customer was not at risk of harm.

Moving forward off the back of the results, the study recommends that future safer gambling campaigns should give greater weight to the risks of playing casino and slots games online. In addition, safer gambling public awareness campaigns need to take into account gender differences in patterns of play. 

Furthermore, operators should monitor particularly closely customers who have shifted from betting-only dual status. Also, it states that operators need to consider lowering their threshold for initiating interaction with customers. 

Additionally, operators should show more curiosity about their customers with the highest spend and adopt internal procedures to guard against suspicion that commercial considerations are allowed to compromise compliance with the Social Responsibility Code. 


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