Industry Insists Research Is Unbiased

February 8, 2024
Gambling operators' surveys can be a reliable source of data, according to a panel of several gambling industry stakeholders at the World Regulatory Briefing, one of the two events that launched the ICE gambling conference.

Gambling operators' surveys can be a reliable source of data, according to a panel of several gambling industry stakeholders at the World Regulatory Briefing (WRB), one of the two events that launched the ICE gambling conference.

“Can industry research ever be unbiased?” Panellists argued that it made no sense for the industry to commission data that they could tamper with. 

Victoria Reed, a former executive and the founder of Better Change, which works to prevent gambling harm, said every operator that has helped commission research does not “really have time to ask you what you're doing or to want to try and influence the outcome … you're the expert, and we want to fund you to go and do your job”. 

In response to the suggestion that there could be bias, Reed said: “All biased research will do is give biased actions and then why would you want to fund that kind of thing? It’s doing research that's going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy and is not going to get you any useful insights. I think from our point of view, everyone that we've seen, there is not an appetite from the industry to try and influence it.” 

In the UK, the Gambling Act white paper proposes a new statutory levy to fund research, education and treatment services, with the fund's independence from the gambling industry seen as key by many stakeholders to producing reliable data and tackling harm. 

The UK Gambling Commission also warned in recent months about the improper use of its official data by a wide range of stakeholders, with executive director Tim Miller saying on an earlier panel that "whatever side of the debate that you are on if you misuse any statistics, we will challenge that". 

Andrew Rhodes, the head of the Gambling Commission, issued a stark warning in August in an open letter on the subject. 

He wrote that gambling operators, trade bodies, charities, media outlets and sporting venues were all guilty of misusing statistics for their gain and that "all parties seeking to rely on statistics to advance their arguments must do so accurately and in the correct context”.

However, industry-led research continues to play a pivotal role in policy in developing markets such as Latin America, where lawmakers scramble to find data to guide protective measures for players in new legislation.

Gaming software provider Playtech produced the oft-cited survey on the behaviour of players in Latin America last year that questioned 2,500 people throughout the continent. They used third-party polling company Toluna, which, in a game-like pattern itself, uses a reward system of points to encourage users to participate in surveys. 

The questions ranged from “Do you consider yourself a responsible gambler?” to “In which way do you prefer to receive responsible gambling messages while playing online?” to “Have you ever received a warning about how much you were gambling?”.

Charmaine Hogan, the head of regulatory affairs at Playtech, echoed Reed’s emphasis on unbiased research to produce good policy.

“An underlying reason is our view that player protection needs to be front and centre from the outset in new markets [Latin America] for a number of reasons. Also, each market has its own specifics and also the players are not the same. So that survey gives consumer views, and those valuable insights are shared. It helps feed in discussions, for regulations to be guided by evidence.”

José Francisco Manssur, the man tipped to be head of the newly created Prizes and Bets Secretariat in Brazil, at the time commented on the survey’s Brazilian results, saying that it showed that regulating the market and imposing safe gambling criteria is of the utmost importance.  

The methodology used in the survey was not immediately apparent, as Playtech did not return a request for specifics as of publication.

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