Gambling Harm Report Offers Policymakers Huge Evidence Base

September 22, 2021
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A voluminous academic report written to inform the UK’s national gambling strategy has noted the effectiveness of the whistle-to-whistle ad ban, but warned that social media is replacing TV as the most dangerous arena for underage gambling ads.

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A voluminous academic report written to inform the UK’s national gambling strategy has noted the effectiveness of the whistle-to-whistle ad ban, but warned that social media is replacing TV as the most dangerous arena for underage gambling ads.

The Prevention and Education Review: Gambling-Related Harm report offers an evidence base for policies, programmes and practices aimed at reducing gambling harms through prevention and education.

The report was undertaken by the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO), in support of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms in Great Britain.

At just over 400 pages, the report covers universal measures that benefit the whole of society, selective measures that benefit at-risk groups and indicates measures that benefit at-risk individuals, such as self-exclusion.

For instance, its section on gambling advertising highlights that “high exposure is linked to more gambling participation” and warns that people with gambling problems “may experience more impact” from them.

Additionally, it says the UK “whistle-to-whistle” ban “effectively” reduced the number of ads seen by young people, but points out that there is evidence many adolescents simply use social media to follow operators instead.

One hot topic covered in the report is sport sponsorships. Branded shirts and in-stadium advertising were deemed to still contribute to a substantial portion of gambling marketing.

The report recommends looking at alcohol advertising regulations as there is a “significant relationship between youth’s exposure to alcohol commercials and their subsequent behaviour”.

When it comes to gambling products, the report says licensing and regulating online gambling appear to reduce participation in offshore gambling.

Additionally, offshore gambling is associated with higher levels of gambling severity.

Regulations that prohibit online gambling access are also “somewhat ineffective” and drive players offshore.

However, more evidence is needed when it comes to the risks posed by certain products, it said.

For instance, evidence is mixed whether sports betting is related to an increased likelihood of experiencing harm, but existing research suggests live betting is linked to problem gambling.

When it comes to the pace of gambling delivery, the report states limiting opening hours can have a “great impact” on reducing harms.

The report states case studies show the most effective regulations gambling venues can introduce to prevent harm are smoking bans, supply caps for gaming machines, no food or alcohol, restricting cash payment, requiring a personal card to play and bans on certain forms of gambling.

Another hot topic covered in the report is the geographic concentration of gambling venues in lower income areas.

The report says this does not affect people who gamble recreationally but has a negative impact on at-risk people.

Another frequently controversial topic in the UK covered in the report is the tone of safer gambling messaging.

The report found concrete messages such as “set a safer gambling limit” are more persuasive than abstract messages such as “gamble safely”.

Voluntary deposit limit-setting tools were found to be positively linked to player loyalty and continued gambling participation, it said.

Similarly, setting deposit limits was associated with reduced time spent gambling and stronger feelings of control.

When it comes to protecting children and young people, the report says they should be educated about odds and probabilities.

Adults aged 18-25 may be best served by internet-based approaches to gambling harm prevention and education, as it may be more accessible to them and offer improved privacy and confidentiality.

No specific harm prevention or safer gambling programmes were found that targeted people aged 60 and above.

The scope of the review was established by GREO in consultation with the UK's Gambling Commission.

The regulator’s partnership with GREO began in 2019, with the regulator gaining access to its Evidence Centre and data repository in a bid to aid the three-year National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

Separately, one of GREO’s first collaborations with the commission was to evaluate the impact of banning credit cards for online gambling.

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