NIESR launches project to measure costs of gambling harm

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has announced that it will be leading an ambitious project on measuring the costs of gambling harm.

With funding from a regulatory settlement approved by the Gambling Commission, NIESR’s objective is to provide an estimate of both the benefits and the costs of gambling. NIESR will focus specifically on gambling-related harms for individuals, communities and the wider society. By doing so, NIESR will aim to make a crucial contribution to the evidence base as part of the ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

Using NIESR’s modelling capacity, the project will build on previous research by think-tanks and public health officials to offer a comprehensive economic assessment of gambling activity and harm. By simulating the impact of different policy choices, including specific scenarios around the costs of not intervening in particular forms of gambling, NIESR will provide a complete measurement of the economic effects of gambling activity. In the future, this could lay the foundations for a large longitudinal study to establish the complex connections between gambling, household finances and the national economy.

The research team will be assisted by an Advisory Board of ten leading academic economists and health experts, thereby ensuring that the research reflects the wider policy debate and the framework of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

The project will conclude with a report published in the early summer to help inform policy makers, the Treasury and wider government during their consultation for the Gambling Review White Paper.

Professor Adrian Pabst, NIESR’s deputy director and research lead on the project, said: “Gambling is an important part of the UK’s economic and social landscape, but we do not have a sufficiently accurate understanding of its benefits and costs, notably the economic costs of gambling-related harm. We welcome this opportunity to conduct a rigorous assessment and help build an impartial evidence base. Changes to the gambling legislation and the regulatory framework should be driven by independent research, especially at a time when legislators and policymakers face a tension between demands to grow the industry and calls to minimise harm.”

Dr James Noyes, chair of the project’s Advisory Board, said: “The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has an unparalleled reputation when it comes to the analysis of complex economic activity. I am delighted that NIESR is bringing its considerable expertise to the question of gambling-related harm. At a time when gambling legislation is under review, Government relies on independent research organisations such as NIESR to build a credible evidence base. Assisted by some of the country’s leading economists, I believe that this project has the potential to make an authoritative contribution to both the scientific and policy debate.”

Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, President of Psychiatry at the Royal Society of Medicine and member of the Advisory Board, added: “We know from national and international research that the financial burden of gambling related harm is significant at both individual and societal level. What we do not as yet have is a true understanding of the amounts we are dealing with in the UK. I have full trust in NIESR’s ability to lead in this area. As we get close to the Gambling Review publication, we can be sure of one thing: NIESR’s findings will have significant repercussions at political, public health and indeed human level for many years to come.”