A new pan-European study commissioned by The European Gaming and Betting Association (‘EGBA’) entitled ‘Consumer Protection in European Online Gambling Regulation – Monitoring Gambling Engagement and Problem Gambling Prevalence within Selected European Jurisdictions’ – that you can download below – has found significant differences in how European countries monitor and report problem gambling, with 12 countries having regular national surveys about problem gambling prevalence.
Commenting on this, EGBA has issued the following press release:
Significant differences exist in how European countries monitor and report on problem gambling, according to a new study published by the City, University of London. The study found that just 12 countries have regular national surveys about problem gambling prevalence and significant differences exist in the measurement tools and methodologies used in these surveys. The study found that levels of problem gambling in European countries range from 0.3% to 6.4% of the adult population but significant differences in national survey methods, screening tools, survey timings and target age groups, makes any meaningful comparisons between countries difficult.
The pan-European study reviewed the monitoring and reporting frameworks of 20 European countries,covering the period 2015-2020, and assessed national approaches to problem gambling measurement and reporting methods, including relevant research studies and the screening tools used to measure problem gambling, and compiled the reported problem gambling levels. The study, which also reviewed gambling engagement levels, concludes that a more common approach to the monitoring and reporting of problem gambling would help improve the understanding of problem gambling and its prevalence in Europe.
The study was commissioned by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) as part of EGBA’s commitment to contribute to greater research and understanding about online gambling behaviours in Europe. In this respect, EGBA hopes the study and its finding will contribute to a better understanding of problem gambling and support an open and inclusive dialogue with other stakeholders about best practices, foster more common understandings of problem gambling and its prevalence, and support effective and evidence-based approaches to reduce gambling-related harm.
“Our members are fully committed to promoting a stronger culture of safer gambling in Europe and through this study we aim to contribute positively to the understanding of problem gambling and its prevalence in Europe. The significant differences in the way in which problem gambling is monitored and reported in Europe clearly stands out from the study. A shift towards a more common and regular monitoring and reporting framework for problem gambling would benefit all gambling sector stakeholders and support more effective and evidence-based prevention policies.” – Maarten Haijer, Secretary General, EGBA.
Key findings from the study:
- 12 countries have regular, systematic, national surveys about gambling engagement and problem gambling prevalence levels. The most frequent surveys are carried out quarterly and the longest interval is 5 years.
- National surveys are administered using various methods. Gambling prevalence surveys or population-based gambling surveys are used in 7 countries while Health Surveys are the preferred vehicle in 3 countries.
- The age ranges of those surveyed vary across countries. The minimum age to participate in the “adult” surveys varies from 15 to 18 years old. The maximum age for inclusion in a survey varies from 64 to 75 years old and some countries have no upper age limit.
- 3 countries estimate problem gambling prevalence levels through reference to the number of self-excluded players.
- Levels of problem gambling are estimated from the surveys using a variety of screening tools. 4 countries use more than one screening tool with reference to the same survey. The most common screening tool is PGSI and has been adopted in 9 countries.
- Problem gambling is typically defined by reference to either IDC-10 or DSM criteria, or both.
- Gambling engagement ranges from 32.9% to 80% of the population in the reviewed countries.
- Reported levels of problem gambling range from 0.3% to 6.4% in the reviewed countries. Existing divergences in survey methods, screening tools, survey timings and target age groups make any meaningful comparisons between countries difficult.
 Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom.
 Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Malta, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The author of the study, Dr Margaret Carran, of City Law School, University of London, concludes that:
….. while the surveys provide a valuable indicator of problem gambling prevalence in Europe, it is difficult to make any meaningful comparisons between problem gambling prevalence in the different jurisdictions directly from the available data. It is also well known that different screening tools return varying levels of problem gambling, but this is also the case with different measurement vehicles.76 An experiment in Canada clearly showed that Health Surveys tend to show lower levels of problem gambling than bespoke gambling prevalence surveys77 and such variations are likely to occur also with other measurement methods as well. Furthermore, surveys carried out in different years are subject to different external variables that are also likely to have an impact on results. For example, results from surveys carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to have been influenced by lockdowns and other restrictive measures which would not appear in surveys carried out pre or post pandemic times. As such, the status quo makes any constructive evaluations of the impact of regulatory approaches on gambling engagement and on problem gambling prevalence levels very challenging and reduces the possibility of evidence-based arguments in gambling-related discourses that focus on social responsibility and problem gambling issues.
Accordingly, it is suggested that this is the right time to consider the implementation of pan- European adult surveys on gambling-related matters that could be modelled on the pan-European ESPAD survey on children. Such a multi-jurisdictional survey, that would focus on adult populations, would ensure that gambling engagement and problem gambling prevalence are assessed during the same period and use the same methodology. This, in turn, would enable a more constructive, meaningful, and evidence-based dialogue about the variety of regulatory approaches, best practices and what does or does not work most effectively, foster more common understandings of problem gambling and its prevalence, and support more effective approaches to reducing problem gambling.
If this suggestion appears too radical, it is at least hoped that this report will encourage conversations among the national gambling authorities and other responsible stakeholders to determine the advantages or disadvantages of the current position and to consider whether a better cooperation and cohesion of problem gambling monitoring methods would indeed be more beneficial to all.
UPDATE: On 10 May 2022, EGBA hosted a webinar discussion where Dr Carran presented the high-level findings from the study. You can watch that webinar here.