Behavioural and demographic patterns and trends in treatment-seeking disordered gamblers: 2000-2015

Dr Steve Sharman

Research Fellow

I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at UEL, graduating top of the class and winning the British Psychological Society award for the University. During this time I became interested in pathological gambling, and began working on a voluntary basis at the National Problem Gambling Clinic. This was followed by a master’s degree at UCL in Cognitive Neuroscience, where my dissertation investigated decision-making differences between gamblers and a control group. I won a scholarship to complete my PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Dr Luke Clark, investigating cognition and decision-making in pathological and regular gamblers. Upon completion of my doctorate, I worked for approximately 1 year at NatCen (National Centre for Social Research) before moving to the University of Lincoln to take up a post-doctoral research post, working closely with pathological gamblers from the Gordon Moody Association. I am a member of the National Problem Gambling Research Council, housed at the clinic in London, have acted as a reviewer for numerous journals, supervise final year undergraduate dissertation, and teach on the Psychology undergraduate degree.  



Gambling is a popular national pastime in the UK. The Gambling Act of 2005 facilitated major expansions of land-based and online gambling, subsequently increasing both the range of gambling products available, and ways in which to access gambling. Recent Gambling Commission figures indicate that 48% of respondents had gambled in the past four weeks (a 3% increase on 2015), and that 0.7% of those that have gambled in the past 12 months identified as problem gamblers (compared to 0.5% in 2015), with a further 5.5% identified as at-risk gamblers.

However, little is known regarding the demographic and behavioural profiles of those seeking treatment for disordered gambling in the UK, and how these may have changed over time. The Gordon Moody Association (GMA) is the UK 's primary gambling-specific residential treatment facility, combining group and individual treatment programmes, in a community rehabilitation setting. Working with GMA, this research has sought to analyse the gambling behaviour and demographic profile of over 750 treatment seeking gamblers between 2000 and 2015.

Preliminary analysis reveals some interesting patterns, particularly in the forms of gambling disclosed as problematic. Individuals identifying Fixed Odds Betting Terminals as a problem form of gambling has been steadily increasing, whilst conversely, more traditional forms of gambling, (such as horse and dog racing) over time, are less commonly identified as a problem form. As expected, the number of treatment seeking gamblers engaging in online gambling is consistently increasing, year on year. Additionally, gamblers also commonly identify as smokers, have experience of a close family member gambling when growing up, and have experienced suicidal ideation. Approximately 75% of gamblers disclose committing a criminal act to fund gambling, a figure consistent across years.

This study provides an unprecedented and extensive insight in to both the demographic profiles and behavioural patterns of treatment seeking gamblers in the UK, over a 15 year time period, providing an important and overdue background to clinicians, policy-makers and gambling legislators.


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