3 Consolidating a culture of evaluation
The gambling industry is now committing significant resources to harm minimisation, over and above its voluntary contributions to the Responsible Gambling Trust.
It is important that those resources are well-directed, that any interventions are robustly evaluated and that information is routinely shared with other operators and stakeholders so that appropriate lessons can be learnt. To help with this, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board has taken the lead in establishing an Evaluation Protocol, and the Responsible Gambling Trust is working with the industry on appropriate training and support. The nature of any evaluation, including its independence, needs to reflect the scale and significance of the intervention or project to which it relates if the costs are to be proportionate to the benefits.
A number of recent initiatives have been introduced quickly in response to public pressure or perceived political imperatives. One consequence has been that they have not always been adequately evidenced-based, and often lack a viable theory of change and clear baseline against which to measure the effect of change. Evaluation plans should be an intrinsic part of the design of any significant new initiatives.
Regulatory changes, and interventions designed to change player behaviour, have the potential to create substitution effects. Gamblers could simply be pushed from one product to another. Potential effects of this kind need to be better understood, taken into account in any new initiatives and looked at in any subsequent evaluations. But they should not be allowed to become a justification for inaction.
Treatment interventions should be evaluated, as part of the normal process of encouraging best practice and cost-effectiveness. The availability of an improved core set of management data on treatment interventions through the Data Reporting Framework ought to contribute helpfully to this process. It will also make possible the publication for the first time of national outcome statistics.
For harm minimisation interventions, the gambling industry, working with the Gambling Commission and supported by the Responsible Gambling Trust. For treatment interventions, treatment providers, working with the Responsible Gambling Trust.
Indicative timescale and indicators of success: Every significant new intervention to be routinely and independently evaluated from this point on, in line with the Evaluation Protocol. We would expect to see evaluations published or shared between operators, so that learning is disseminated, and high levels of take up of the Trust’s training and support materials.
Relevant to: Priority objectives I, II, III and IV.