Britain's oldest independent economic research institute is undertaking a project to measure the costs of gambling harm ahead of the government’s Gambling Act Review white paper.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) will estimate the costs and benefits of gambling, with a focus on gambling-related harms for individuals, communities and wider society, to contribute to the evidence base of the ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
The project is scheduled to be completed by the early summer and is being funded by regulatory settlements gathered by the Gambling Commission, according to NIESR's announcement on Thursday (February 3).
Dr. James Noyes, chair of the project’s advisory board, said the modelling “has the potential to make an authoritative contribution to both the scientific and policy debate" and that the government will rely on independent research to build a "credible evidence base” for its decision-making.
Noyes' past research helped influence the decision to introduce a £2 maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The project will see NIESR use its economic modelling capacities with previous research by think-tanks and public health officials to paint a picture of the true economic impacts of gambling activity and its harms, the institute said.
Simulations will then be run reflecting the impacts of different potential policy choices, including scenarios such as the cost of not intervening at all “in particular forms of gambling”.
The NIESR will use these models to create a “complete measurement of the economic effects of gambling activity”, which it said could form the basis of a large longitudinal study, something academics have long called for, to establish the complex connections between gambling, household finances and the national economy.
Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, the president of psychiatry at the Royal Society of Medicine and member of the advisory board, said we already know from research that “gambling related harm is significant at both individual and societal level”.
Last year, the UK government was urged to treat harmful gambling as a public health issue by a controversial Department of Health report that estimated the cost to English society to be in excess of £1.27bn a year.
Half of the estimated economic burden is a direct cost to the government, which is “likely to be underestimated due to a lack of available evidence”, according to Public Health England’s (PHE) study.
Trade Group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has claimed in the past that its members support 119,000 jobs, generate £4.5bn in tax to pay for vital public services and contribute £7.7bn to the economy in gross value added, according to figures in a report by EY.
Professor Adrian Pabst, NIESR’s deputy director and research lead on the project, said gambling is an “important part of the UK’s social and economic landscape”.
However, “we do not have a sufficiently accurate understanding of its benefits and costs, notably the economic costs of gambling-related harm”, he said.