Irish Researchers Defend High Problem Gambling Estimate

January 24, 2024
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Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute has said it stands by its estimate that one in every 30 adults experience problem gambling in Ireland after its data was challenged by Flutter CEO Peter Jackson in the local media.
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Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has said it stands by its estimate that one in every 30 adults experience problem gambling in Ireland after its data was challenged by Flutter CEO Peter Jackson in the local media.

Professor Pete Lunn, head of the ESRI’s Behavioural Research Unit, told Vixio: “The low figure quoted by Jackson from a UK survey is old. In fact, the UK Gambling Commission’s most recent estimate of problem gambling, based on a different method, is much higher and similar to ours.”

Figures from the UK gambling participation and the prevalence of problem gambling survey published in November 2023 revealed 2.5 percent of respondents scored 8 plus on the problem gambling severity index (PGSI) screen, which means they are gambling with negative consequences, with a further 3.5 percent scoring between 3 and 7, which means they experience a moderate level of problems.

“The issue of different survey methods giving different results is addressed in two ESRI reports published in 2023. Our conclusion, as independent researchers, is that the higher figures are more likely to reflect reality, because the survey methods used gave people anonymity. When responses are anonymous, people are more willing to admit how much they gamble,” Lunn said. 

Additionally, defending the validity of the figures, Lunn said: “Our research on problem gambling is peer-reviewed, publicly available and, therefore, open to scrutiny."

Findings published by the ESRI in October 2023 revealed that 130,000 adults in Ireland are estimated to be problem gamblers, ten times the previous measure from 2019.

In an article published on January 18 in the local media, Jackson challenged the ESRI’s problem gambling rate findings, claiming that his company has “different figures”.

“If you look at the official NHS Health Survey figures for England, I think they would say that the problem gambling risk amongst the total population was 0.4 percent,” Jackson said.

However, Jackson went on to say “this ERSI report, I haven’t seen it myself, I understand that it seems to suggest that gambling is a bigger societal issue than our real-life experience or any of independent research that we've seen would indicate”.

The Behavioural Research Unit is undergoing a two-year research programme with the new Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland to examine gambling behaviour, including problem gambling and gambling among children.

Findings from the ESRI will help to shape Ireland’s new gambling policy, with the long-awaited Gambling Regulation Bill 2022 expected to finish its journey through the Oireachtas (parliament) early in 2024, according to the Department of Justice.

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