UKGC: GSGB to help fill evidence gaps around impacts of gambling

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Laura Balla, Head of Research at the UK Gambling Commission, has stated that the Gambling Survey for Great Britain will assist in “filling evidence gaps around the impacts of gambling” and provide a better evidence base to help “make gambling safer for all”.

Balla’s comments follow the UKGC’s first GSGB dataset publication earlier this year, in addition to the release of the commission’s Corporate Strategy 2024 to 2027, which was published last week. 

The UKGC’s Head of Research emphasized that the new questions on the GSGB were introduced to help the commission meet one of its key objectives of protecting children and vulnerable people from gambling-related harm through effective and enforced regulatory requirements.

Previously, screening instruments such as the Problem Gambling Severity Index were used as a way to determine the evidence base on the impacts of gambling, but Balla explained that “discourse in recent years has expanded to recognise the wider harms that can be caused by gambling, and negative impacts that may affect gamblers themselves or others”.

Such framework for the expansion of gambling-related harm understanding was developed by Wardle et al. in 2018, which defined gambling-related harms as “the adverse impacts from gambling on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and society”, splitting harms into three different categories: resources, relationships and health.

Keeping this in mind, Balla stated that the UKGC’s aim with the survey’s new questions was to “build a better understanding of the wider impacts that people may experience because of their own or someone else’s gambling, going beyond the limited insight provided by the PGSI”.

She said: “It has never been our intention to develop a headline score or psychometric scale of gambling-harms. The wider impacts of gambling are varied and diverse and to develop a single measure or scale would be extremely challenging, and the results would likely be less useful when applied to our regulatory and policy work.

“Instead, the new questions will give us insight into the range of experiences and associated trends that different consumers are having and allow us to explore the nuance and complexity of the impacts of gambling in a way that we cannot do if we only use the PGSI.”

Balla noted that new questions that would eventually be included as core questions in the GSGB went through various development phases to ensure that they were “effective in capturing negative impacts, were reliable, and which gave us representation across the three domains of harm outlined in the Wardle et al”, as well as being on a robust and sustainable survey vehicle.

The Head of Research claimed that during the question development phase, it became clear that there were “differences in the severity of some of the issues that were being considered”, and that going forward, more severe items like bankruptcy, relationship breakdown and committing a crime, will be treated separately in comparison to what the commission terms as “other negative consequences”.

Balla said the new survey will assist with the exploration of the relationship between PGSI and the wider impacts of gambling, but care must be taken with language. 

In addition, the UKGC will engage with its Lived Experience Advisory Panel ahead of the first publication of its GSGB annual report to make sure “findings are being articulated sensitively and without stigma”.

The findings will also be in a separate chapter of the report covering the impact of gambling to also include “people’s motivations for and enjoyment of gambling”.

The UKGC will be publishing a full technical report outlining its question development approach alongside the first release of the new data in the first annual GSGB report in July.

She concluded: “As with all research of this nature, it is likely that further refinements may be needed to continue to develop this part of the evidence base in the future. 

“However, this new body of evidence, and the ability we will have to start uncovering trends as the GSGB continues, will present a big step forward in filling evidence gaps around the impacts of gambling, and provide a better evidence base on which to focus our work to make gambling safer for all.”