Comparing European Problem Gambling Rates Difficult, Says Study

April 27, 2022
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​​​​​​​“Highly diverse” methods of recording problem gambling in Europe make it difficult for any valuable cross-country comparisons to be made, according to a study written for the European Gaming and Betting Association.

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“Highly diverse” methods of recording problem gambling in Europe make it difficult for any valuable cross-country comparisons to be made, according to a study written for the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).

EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer said that “a shift towards a more common and regular monitoring and reporting framework for problem gambling would benefit all gambling sector stakeholders and support more effective and evidence-based prevention policies”.

Some 20 different European countries are included in the report, of which only 12 collect data about gambling engagement and problem gambling regularly through nationally sponsored surveys.

These regular national surveys are also carried out at various intervals, varying between quarterly in the UK and once every five years in the Netherlands, according to the study.

National surveys are administered using different methods, including population-based or gambling prevalence surveys, health surveys, telephone interviews, as well as gambling-related questions in broader health and lifestyle surveys.

Participants in these surveys are even from different age ranges in different jurisdictions.

Other countries reviewed did carry out national surveys, just not at prescribed intervals.

As a result of the varying methodologies, reported gambling engagement varies among jurisdictions from 32.9 percent in the Czech Republic in 2016 to 80 percent in Finland in 2015.

Reported levels of problem gambling range from 0.3 percent in Ireland (2019/2020) to 6.4 percent in Latvia (2019), although the UK’s latest figures are even lower than Ireland.

The UK regulator’s latest quarterly participation and problem gambling statistics published on April 26 revealed overall the problem gambling rate is “statistically stable” at 0.2 percent, as are the moderate-risk and low-risk rates at 0.9 percent and 1.4 percent respectively.

Dan Waugh of UK-based consultancy and research firm Regulus Partners told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that he agrees that from a “purist” point of view it would be desirable to have some sort of shared protocol among gambling regulators.

However, he said a pan-European survey using consistent methodology and screening would not be the most valuable use of money, as it would be unlikely to return wildly different problem gambling figures than those lawmakers already have at their disposal.

“Great Britain consistently has a relatively low rate of problem gambling compared to other nations, yet despite that, we still have all hell breaking loose,” Waugh said, challenging the idea that comparisons unveiling higher or lower rates would impact consumer protection legislation.

The use of varying methods of monitoring problem gambling recently caused controversy in the United Kingdom, when charity GambleAware estimated there are 1.4m people experiencing gambling-related harm in Great Britain.

At the time, trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said it “did not recognise GambleAware’s latest figures, as according to the Gambling Commission’s data there are only 170,000 problem gamblers in the country”.

A spokesperson for the regulator said at the time that “regardless of methodology it is important that we all recognise that there are a significant number of people who suffer harm, and we are committed to making gambling safer”.

The Gambling Commission is currently piloting a new method for the collection of official national gambling statistics to improve the frequency, depth and currency of its data.

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