AAGH study highlights important future steps for gambling research

Action Against Gambling Harm (AAGH) has published the findings of its recent study, conducted by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, claiming that further investigation is needed into gambling related harm in the UK.

Highlighting the results of a previous study by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) in 2019 – which found that 47% of the British population revealed that they placed a bet  at some point in the past four weeks.he AAGH has argued that despite the high prevalence of gambling in the UK, there is a noticeable ‘lack of empirical research’ on the potential harmful impacts of the practice.

Areas of particular concern were the harmful consequences of the promotion of sports betting and a lack of research into affordability and financial impacts of gambling, in addition to an absence of investigations into the number of women who bet.

A ‘small body of work’ analysing the connection between poverty and problem gambling was found, as well as ‘several in depth studies’ addressing the financial harm bettors and their families may face as a result of problem gambling.

Despite acknowledging this research base, the AAGH added that very little evidence of interventions regarding affordability and financial harm, or the correlation between gambling and monetary struggles.

Additionally, researchers noted that the ‘feminisation of gambling’ had led to an increase in the number of women betting, but added that as with affordability, there was a ‘lack of research’ on this topic.

Expanding on this the AAGH identified ‘promising avenues for future research’ on the issue of women gamblers, including behaviours and experiences of harm, as well as differences between immigrant and ethnic minority communities; the connection between mental health and problem gambling; and longitudinal studies on betting behaviour over time and the effectiveness of harm reduction.

With regards to sports betting, the study stated that the sector ‘may be struggling to keep pace,’ finding that the relationship between sports wagering and problem gambling had been extensively researched, but that investigation into the possible harmful consequences of it had been ‘much scarcer’.

Findings also showed that qualitative studies had outlined instant depositing, cash out features and in-play betting and the prevalence of mobile apps are all features that ‘can increase gambling frequently and problem gamblng behaviour, and increase the risk of harms’. 

Lastly, the probe did note that a ‘large body of literature that related to the question of the harms associated with gambling among children and adolescents,’ had been found, identifying substance abuse, ‘delinquent behaviour,’ poor mental health and low academic performance as widely highlighted consequences of problem betting on children and adolescents.

Furthermore, prior research had suggested that the promotion of sports betting could be harmful for existing problem gamblers as well as raise awareness of the activity among children. 

Studies evaluating interventions to prevent gambling related harms among younger people were also discovered, although research gaps were still present, particularly relating to the lack of longitudinal data analysis as the majority of studies were ‘cross-sectional’ in nature.

Seema Kennedy OBE, CEO of AAGH, stated: “This important study shows how much we still don’t know about gambling and its effects on British society. We hope that these findings will galvanise research institutions and policymakers into commissioning further work to fill the gaps.”

Overall, the AAGH’s research found there was ‘relatively little research on gambling harms in the UK’ when compared with the US, Canada and Australia.

Large gaps were prevalent across British conceptual literature on problem betting, particularly with regards to the issue of women and addictive betting, and a general absence of a definition of ‘gambling-related harm’.