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Loyalty card research

GambleAware publishes a follow-up study of loyalty card holders that adds new information to our knowledge of problems associated with machine gambling.

London, 1 February: New research, funded by GambleAware, suggests that the gambling industry should carefully consider what actions they should take to further prevent particular vulnerable groups from experiencing harm. The study, conducted by NatCen and Dr Heather Wardle, is a follow-up to a 2014 study of holders of bookmakers’ loyalty cards, commissioned by GambleAware as part of a programme of research looking at users of machines in bookmakers. Researchers found that people generally thought to be more vulnerable to gamblingrelated harm were those more likely to become problem gamblers or to increase their Problem Gambling Status Index (PGSI) scores (those with low-incomes or from nonWhite backgrounds). This both exacerbates existing inequalities and highlights the importance of focusing preventative action and policies in these groups. To date, policy makers have tended to focus on comparing prevalence rates over time to assess how gambling behaviour is changing. When looking at prevalence rates alone, trends in gambling behaviour and gambling problems can appear stable. However, this study found that change in patterns of behaviour over time is the norm, with gamblers increasing or decreasing their engagement over time, as measured by the number of activities undertaken or the frequency of play. A small proportion of participants (6%) became problem gamblers between the two studies, but a slightly larger proportion (9%) were problem gamblers in the earlier study but no longer so at follow-up. Overall, just over half (54%) maintained the same status over time, but a substantial minority changed how they were categorised according to the PGSI.

Elizabeth Fuller, lead researcher at NatCen said: “This research demonstrates how gamblers can change their patterns of play over time, and that individuals’ problem gambling scores can decrease as well as increase. It should be a matter of concern that the risks of problem gambling are concentrated in particular vulnerable groups in society.”

Marc Etches, Chief Executive of GambleAware said: “Despite the innovation in the industry over the last twenty years, prevalence rates for problem gambling have appeared to be relatively stable. However, this may well disguise significant behaviour change among some individuals and so this study of behaviour over time is important. We are planning to commission more longitudinal studies in the future.”

Read the announcement here and the report here.