An Investigation of the social impact of problem gambling in Wales

By Bev John, Katharine Holloway, Nyle Davies, Tom May, Marian Buhociu, & Gareth Roderique-Davies

Abstract: The University of South Wales and a consortium of 5 Assembly Members jointly funded an investigation of the social impact of problem gambling in Wales. The research consisted of 4 elements: an online survey to quantify the broader base of gambling in Wales; interviews with service providers; interviews with service users; and an evaluation of local density and availability of gambling outlets, including fixed odds machines. The findings from the 4 elements of this research corroborate and strengthen the observed patterns.
The negative social and health impacts of gambling are clear from the many personal accounts provided. These include personal struggles and despair, family breakdown, poverty and growing up with the threat of homelessness.
Gambling is a hidden problem in a number of ways:
– It carries stigma for both gambler and family, in a similar way to alcohol addiction, and certainly how the latter was viewed in the recent past. Individuals are very reluctant to admit to gambling problems.
– The majority of people gamble alone, and the exponential increase in access to gambling via internet websites and phone and tablet apps increases the solitary nature of gambling, and the difficulties in computing actual prevalence. Alcohol consumption appears to exacerbate these factors.
-The lack of specialist services means that there are no databases of individuals with problem and dependent gambling. Proxy services where these individuals may present (e.g. debt and addiction services) do not, for the most part, screen for gambling problems, and there is no systematic identification of need.
Particular types of gambling behaviour are of specific high risk for impaired control and problem gambling. These are using FOBTs at LBOs, and using internet and App gambling sites for both virtual gaming and sports event gambling.
FOBT issues are well documented, but internet and app platforms are increasing access to gambling due to the exponential increase in smart phone and tablet computers across Wales. These technological changes are leading to change in social regulation of gambling as a public behaviour, as well as facilitating targeted and unregulated advertising to potentially vulnerable individuals. Trends indicate that these may include older adults and underage children.
The gambling industry appears to target the vulnerable. The location of LBO clusters in relation to deprived geographical areas is clear. Aspirational advertising that creates false hope could be disproportionately effective in these parts of Wales. The importance of coping as a motivation to gamble identified in the current study lends support to this.
There are a number of parallels with the Alcohol Industry:
– As a legal activity, where there appears to be a continuum from “normal” or harm free use to addiction and dependence, and where establishing the line of “potential harm” can be difficult;
– As a condition which attracts feelings of stigma for both user and loved ones, which is a barrier to seeking support;
– As a behaviour where those with problems present at proxy services (e.g. alcohol problems at A&E departments; gambling problems in Debt Agencies), and where there is resistance by professionals to rolling out formal screening due to skill and resource considerations.
A number of areas of future research are identified:
– Additional research is needed to establish if the trends in this preliminary study reflect an actual increase in gambling risk behaviour, and whether there is a relationship between any changing patterns and increasing access to internet and smart phone gambling opportunities in the Welsh population.
– A wider systematic study of online gambling, the impact of technology and the effect personalised advertising on Apps and tablets is needed.
– There are a number of important and related questions in relation to harm prevention and treatment development, including the potential for systematic screening for gambling problems in proxy services, and the development of early interventions to prevent and reduce gambling harm.
– There are important questions raised as to the effects of the density and availability of LGOs on the local and wider community.

Bev John, Katharine Holloway, Nyle Davies, Tom May, Marian Buhociu, & Gareth Roderique-Davies. (2017). An Investigation of the social impact of problem gambling in Wales (p. 97). Pontypridd: University of South Wales. Retrieved from



Measuring the Burden of Gambling Harm in New Zealand

By Browne, M., Bellringer, M., Greer, N., Kolandai-Matchett, K., Rawat, V., Langham, E., Rockloff, M., Palmer Du Preez, K., Abbott, M.

The Ministry of Health engaged Central Queensland University’s (CQU) Experimental Gambling Research Laboratory and Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) Gambling and Addictions Research Centre to develop a framework and a methodology for understanding and measuring gambling-related harm in the New Zealand population.

The aim of the project was to systematically investigate gambling-related harm in New Zealand, and assess the aggregate ‘Burden of Harm’ caused by gambling with reference to different levels of problem gambling, and other comparable conditions. This improved understanding of the quality and quantity of harm will help to better target efforts to prevent or reduce the potential negative consequences of problematic gambling.

Browne, M., Bellringer, M., Greer, N., Kolandai-Matchett, K., Rawat, V., Langham, E., … Abbott, M. (2017). Measuring the Burden of Gambling Harm in New Zealand. Central Queensland University and Auckland University of Technology. Retrieved from

New Zealanders’ Knowledge, views and experience of gambling and gambling harm: Results from the 2014 Health and Lifestyles Survey

By Holland, K., Tu, D., Gray, R., Hudson, S., & Li, J.

The Health and Lifestyles Survey (HLS) is a biennial, nationally representative, face-to-face, in-home survey that facilitates the monitoring of health behaviours and attitudes of New Zealanders aged 15-years-and-over. The HLS is managed by the Health Promotion Agency (HPA) and collects information relating to the programme areas HPA works in, including minimising harm from gambling.

In 2014, the gambling section of the HLS was designed specifically to be comparable to the 2006/07 Gaming and Betting Activities Survey, a benchmark survey carried out to inform the development of a national health promotion programme aimed at reducing gambling harm. The results for the majority of the 2014 HLS questions were also comparable with those in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 HLS. It is recommended that the findings from this report should be read along with the 2014 HLS report on gambling participation (Tu & Puthipiroj, 2015) and the series of specialised gambling reports from the National Gambling Study (Abbott et al., 2014).

This report uses data from the 2014 HLS to assess experience, knowledge and opinions about gambling harm among New Zealand adults, both overall and among different social and population groups (as defined by gender, ethnicity, neighbourhood deprivation level, risk of gambling harm, type of gambling participation, and number of gambling activities participated in over the past 12 months). Where relevant, results are compared to those from earlier surveys.

Holland, K., Tu, D., Gray, R., Hudson, S., & Li, J. (2017). New Zealanders’ Knowledge, views and experience of gambling and gambling harm: Results from the 2014 Health and Lifestyles Survey. Wellington: Health Promotion Agency Research and Evaluation Unit.

Problem Gambling and Family Violence in Help-Seeking Populations: Co-occurrence, Impact and Coping (full text)

By Maria Bellringer, Katie Palmer du Preez, Janet Pearson, Nick Garrett, Jane Koziol-McLain, Denise Wilson, Max Abbott.

Four hundred and fifty-four clients of problem gambling treatment services took part in a short survey on gambling and family/whānau violence and abuse. There were 370 gamblers and 84 affected others (e.g. partners, other family members and friends). The survey took place from June 2013 to March 2015.

The purpose of the research was to identify the level of family/whānau violence and abuse in people seeking help for problem gambling, and to increase our understanding of these issues. A wide definition of family/whānau violence was used, which included physical violence and coercive control (most often thought of as violence), as well as psychological and emotional abuse (more often thought of as conflict), and sexual abuse.

Summary continues here

Bellringer, Maria, Katie Palmer du Preez, Janet Pearson, Nick Garrett, Jane Koziol-McLain, Denise Wilson, and Max Abbott. “Problem Gambling and Family Violence in Help-Seeking Populations: Co-Occurrence, Impact and Coping.” Wellington: Ministry of Health, November 4, 2016.

Examining the impact of e-mental health in problem gambling – full-text PDF

Simone Rodda, Dan Lubman, Nicki Dowling. 

This study examined people’s experiences of e-mental health options at Gambling Help Online. It looked at chat and email counselling services, forums, website information and self-help tools. It also piloted and evaluated a text messaging relapse prevention program.

The researchers surveyed 277 participants recruited through Gambling Help Online about their experiences directly after using a service (baseline) and then four and 12 weeks later.

Highlights include:

  • Online services can be effective in reducing gambling symptom severity – at baseline, almost half of participants reported severe gambling symptoms, compared with only one-fifth 12 weeks later.
  • There were better outcomes for participants using more intensive (chat or email-based) services, compared with those using website information or self-help materials.
  • At 12 weeks, only 6.5 per cent of participants had not engaged with a service or attempted self-directed change following contact with Gambling Help Online.
  • The most frequent actions taken after accessing Gambling Help Online were self-directed (93 per cent) and included reading information on the website, talking to family and friends, and attempting a self-help strategy such as limiting access to cash.
  • Providing tips and offers of help via text messages did not change gambling symptom severity, frequency of gambling or money spent gambling.
  • Users of Gambling Help Online services were more likely to be young and male than users of Gambler’s Help services.

This study helps us better understand the needs of online service users and tailor service responses accordingly. In addition, it provides tentative support for using text messaging as a post-care program. Future work might also investigate offering more intensive options online, such as video conferencing.

Online and on-demand support for people affected by problem gambling the potential for e-mental health interventions – full text

Rodda, S., Lubman, D., Dowling, N., Australian Gambling Research Centre, & Australian Institute of Family Studies.

This paper provides an overview of the evidence on e-mental health support and treatment options for people seeking help with problem gambling. Sections include: Help-seeking and technology, a brief history; Help-seeking behaviours of people experiencing gambling problems; E-mental health: bene ts and drawbacks; Evidence base for e-mental health interventions; E-mental health modalities; Integration of modalities and future innovation; and Recommendations for service providers.

Evaluation and Clinical Audit of Problem Gambling Intervention and Public Health Services | Ministry of Health NZ


The Ministry of Health’s (MoH) implementation of an integrated problem gambling public health strategy includes psychosocial intervention services and primary prevention public health services contracted to providers located throughout New Zealand.


To evaluate the effectiveness of the Brief, Full, Workshop-based, Facilitation and Follow-up intervention services and the Policy Development and Implementation, Safe Gambling Environments, Supportive Communities, Aware Communities, and Effective Screening Environments public health services.


The evaluation employed a mixed-methods approach guided by a logical framework and evaluation criteria agreed with MoH. Content and thematic analysis of over 100 progress reports from 2010 to 2013 for all providers was used to identify outputs, outcomes, best practice and challenges for public health services. An analysis of the Client Information Collection (CLIC) database from 2010 to 2013 determined key trends in intervention services. Views about service effectiveness were obtained through surveys of staff (n=64), clients (n=148) and allied agencies (n=42) of eight providers.

Additional perspectives and clarifications were obtained from three focus group interviews with staff and managers of the eight providers. KPMG was subcontracted to conduct a clinical audit of the intervention services delivered by the eight providers, based on providers’ contracts with MoH, and other guidelines. This included review of documentation, and staff and client interviews. A triangulation process was used to compare and contrast findings from the various evaluation data sources and clinical audit observations. Several factors limited the generalisability of findings…

Source: Komathi Kolandai-Matchett, Jason Landon, Maria Bellringer, Nick Garrett, Stuart Mundy-McPherson, Max Abbott, … Souella Cumming. (2016). Evaluation and Clinical Audit of Problem Gambling Intervention and Public Health Services. New Zealand: Ministry of Health.