New US and UK Gambling Studies Show Interesting Findings, UKGC Publishes Three-Year Plan

  • NCPG reports show that people younger than 35 are at higher risk of problem gambling
  • A new UK study shows “robust evidence” that loot boxes are akin to gambling
  • UKGC has released a new three-year strategy, focusing on five main priorities
  • Groups in both regions are looking to make gambling as safe as possible for participants
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The findings of gambling-related studies published this week in the US and UK present some interesting findings on gambling behaviors, while the UKGC has published its three-year strategy. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Study after study

The past few days have seen a flurry of activity in the US and the UK with the publication of findings from gambling studies and the UK regulator’s latest forward-looking plans.

The US National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) released detailed reports from a comprehensive study on Wednesday that looks at the public’s attitudes toward gambling. In the UK, the findings of a new study show “robust evidence” that loot boxes are akin to gambling, while the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has outlined its new three-year strategy.

create legal gambling markets that are as safe as possible for consumers

In both countries, the overarching goal outlined in the respective reports and the UKGC’s three-year plan is to create legal gambling markets that are as safe as possible for consumers.

A comprehensive study of gambling attitudes

The NCPG’s National and State Detailed Reports are a follow-up to the National Survey of Gambling Attitudes and Gambling Experiences. The NCPG tweeted out details about the newly-released reports on March 31:

The reports highlight interesting findings on both a state and national level. According to the research, sports bettors show many more problematic play indicators than non-sports bettors. This includes bettors having to rely on other people to pay bills or debts and bettors lying about their gambling. People who are younger than 35 also appear to be at a higher risk of developing a gambling problem.

The study also found that people who don’t partake in gambling also tend to not understand how it works. Only 12% of the 28,000+ respondents stated that they had never taken part in any sort of gambling. Finally, the reports also highlighted that legal gambling restrictions did not have much of an effect on peoples’ gambling habits.

NCPG executive director Keith Whyte spoke about how the aim of these new reports is to help both the private and public sectors put in place policies and commit resources to develop a safer gambling environment. They will also help people who might be struggling with their gambling or are in the process of recovery. Whyte went on to state that any party that has interactions with the gambling sector can benefit from having a better understanding of how the US public views gambling.

Evidence that loot boxes mirror gambling

UK researchers have made a number of policy suggestions to help prevent gambling-related harm stemming from loot boxes. The recommendations come from a study commissioned by the GambleAware charity, with the subsequent report showing “robust evidence” that loot box features in video games appear to be “structurally and psychologically akin to gambling.”

GambleAware published the findings from a study by the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Plymouth into gambling and gaming. The results show that 93% of UK children play video games, with as many as 40% of them having opened loot boxes.

UK market for loot boxes is believed to be worth around £700m ($967.5m)

Researchers found that a number of psychological techniques, including the “fear of missing out,” encourage players to purchase in-game loot boxes. The study also found that at-risk people make higher contributions to loot box revenue. The UK market for loot boxes is believed to be worth around £700m ($967.5m) as of the end of last year.

Some of the policy suggestions on the back of the study’s findings include implementing enforceable game ratings, requiring games to have complete disclosure of winning odds in an easy-to-understand manner, listing real currency prices, and incorporating loot boxes into gambling legislation.

UKGC’s new three-year strategy

On Thursday, the UKGC published its corporate strategy for the next three years. This outlines the regulator’s priorities which are based on both its statutory duties and recent findings from reports relating to gambling legislation. It has the continuing aim of making gambling safer and protecting people from harm. The UKGC tweeted out this new strategy on April 1:

The regulatory body laid out five key areas to prioritize going forward. These include protecting vulnerable people and children from gambling harm, cultivating a market that is fairer and has customers who are better informed, and keeping crime away from gambling. The final two priorities relate to making the most of National Lottery charitable donations and making further improvements to gambling regulations.

In addition to continuing its role in regulating the gambling market, it also noted in the strategy press release that it wants to ensure that the competition for the next National Lottery license is completely fair and transparent.

Last week, two MPs wrote a letter to the UKGC alleging that the current National Lottery operator Camelot was attempting to manipulate the bidding process. The letter expressed concerns about the integrity of the competition for the fourth-ever lottery license.

Creating a safe gambling environment

The United States has been experiencing sizeable gambling expansion over the past few years. The catalyst for change was the end of the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018. Since then, over two dozen states have legalized the activity, with many states also now allowing online casinos and poker sites. With sports betting entering the mainstream, gambling addiction groups have concerns about the long-term impact of legalizing the pastime.

While most Americans are able to gamble without any significant negative consequences, about 1% of adults in the country have a gambling disorder. Therefore, experts are calling for more research into the subject, as well as for additional resources to help treat problem gamblers and create awareness about the potential dangers of gambling.

The UK gambling market is more mature, having been well-established for many years. Problem gambling is a still big issue in the region, however, and the UKGC has introduced numerous restrictions in recent years in an attempt to prevent problem gambling behavior. The UK government is also in the process of reviewing gambling legislation in an attempt to bring it into the digital age. Numerous responsible gambling-related regulatory changes are expected from the review.