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1 Understanding and measuring harm

We have stressed the importance of seeking more comprehensive information about the nature and extent of gambling-related harm, so that considered judgements can be made about the type and quantum of resources needed to address it.

In principle, better understanding ought also to make it easier to identify appropriate indicators by which to assess the success of the strategy.

A ‘measuring harm’ approach, involving the identification, classification and quantification of harms associated with all levels of gambling, irrespective of who incurs them, would be a considerable improvement on the current reliance on ‘counting cases’ of problem gambling.

The Responsible Gambling Trust has commissioned a first stage of research on gambling-related harm, to establish the extent of information already available. This research is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Depending on what it shows, it will be important for the Trust, in consultation with others, to take quick decisions about the desirability and feasibility of extending it further. The objective is to complete any further research early in 2017, and to begin to put its results into use by the end of the new strategy period.

The research will consider not just the harm experienced by gamblers themselves, but also that felt by their children, families and others affected by their gambling, and any wider social effects on communities.

Important though this work is, we need to be realistic about its likely outcomes. Previous work on the social costs of gambling (Australian Productivity Commission, Gambling. Inquiry Report No. 50, 2010) suggests that it is unlikely to result in a fully-fledged set of outcome measures because of conceptual and practical difficulties (Douglas M. Walker, ‘Methodological issues in the social cost of gambling studies’, Journal of Gambling Studies).  It may, however, produce useful information to help guide future work.         

Lead responsibility: Responsible Gambling Trust.   

Indicative timescale for completion: Initial research by end of 2016. Further research to be commenced in early 2017.   

Indicator of success: The two stages of work ought to provide a better, shared understanding of what is meant by gambling-related harm and (ideally) would suggest a range of indicators that will assist in its measurement and monitoring. It might also provide greater insights into the factors that can cause transition from non-harmful to harmful play, to inform the development of education and prevention programmes. Further effort is likely to be needed subsequently to build understanding, apply any findings and devise practical applications.   

Relevant to: Priority objectives I and V.