Gambling Commission consults on new methodology for gambling participation and problem gambling research

United Kingdom

On 18 December 2020, the Gambling Commission (the “Commission”) commenced a consultation into the research methodology used in collecting gambling participation and problem gambling statistics. This follows a commitment made by the Commission in its 2020/2021 Business Plan to review this approach.

The Commission collects data about the gambling behaviour of adults in Great Britain, pursuant to its duty under the Gambling Act 2005. The approach currently in place is a ‘combination approach’, in that the Commission derives statistics from a variety of different sources including Health Surveys from England, Scotland and Wales, a quarterly telephone survey and a quarterly online survey.

The Commission acknowledges that although it considers the data to be robust and authoritative, there are limitations with each of the methods currently used, including: different methodologies being used (making comparisons difficult); the infrequency and long lead times on the surveys creating a delay in the data being published; and the impact of Covid-19, limiting the traditional research methods (face-to-face interviews).

The Commission’s Proposals

The Commission recognises that due to the limitations, a new approach needs to be taken when gathering data.

The Commission proposes to:

  1. Replace the separate Health Surveys for England, Scotland and Wales with one single survey to cover all of Great Britain;

  2. Reduce the number of surveys that the Commission relies upon, replacing these with one ‘gold standard’ population survey;

  3. Gather data using a single preferred methodology;

  4. Explore the use of surveys with a shorter turnaround time;

  5. Consider alternative ‘future proof’ methods (reducing reliance on face to face methods); and

  6. Conduct a pilot survey using the new methodology. The Commission recognises that changing the survey method could result in changes in the data, and so considers this stage necessary to understand the impact of the change.

The Commission has set out the criteria that it aims to meet to enable a new ‘gold standard’ approach. These include consolidating core questions on gambling participation and prevalence into one survey and allowing the ability for questions within surveys to be added or removed, to ensure issues remain topical. In considering the new approach, the Commission noted that it was open to using a pre-exiting survey of the general population, or employing a survey purpose built for the Commission. In either case, the Commission emphasised that “ensuring objectivity and transparency in data and reporting” was of primary importance.

The Commission acknowledged that there are several areas which do not form part of the consultation, but are linked to the methodology review:

  • Means of measurement of gambling related harm via survey questions: The Commission already has in progress a pilot of new survey questions on gambling-related harms and so it states that the specific means of measuring harm via survey questions is not within the scope of the consultation. The precise wording of the questions posed is of critical importance to the quality of the data produced and so it is significant that the Commission has excluded this from the scope of its consultation.

  • Representation within surveys: The Commission recognises that certain groups may slip through the regular survey participation list, such as students living in halls or those in barracks, and will separately explore whether surveys for these groups can be delivered by third parties.

  • Longitudinal surveys: The Commission has engaged NatCen in relation to setting up a longitudinal survey to assess changes in gambling behaviour over time.

  • Research datasets: The Commission intends to work towards creating a central data repository, allowing anonymised datasets to be utilised for research.

The consultation period ends on 12 February. The consultation may be accessed here.

Co-authored by Rachel Arnott.