Date: 16.08.2023

by Mateusz Mazur

Gambling Commission CEO Addresses Misuse of Gambling Statistics in Open Letter

In the midst of discussions surrounding gambling and its various implications, the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, Andrew Rhodes, has penned an open letter to address the misuse of gambling statistics that have become increasingly prevalent in the discourse.

Deep concern

Rhodes acknowledges the polarizing nature of gambling debates and the diverse range of opinions that have emerged during the Government’s White Paper development. He emphasizes the importance of individuals and groups having the freedom to express their arguments and opinions within these discussions.

However, Rhodes expresses deep concern about the misuse of statistics that have been observed, particularly as various parties attempt to utilize data to advance their positions on different gambling proposals. He highlights that while differing opinions are natural, the incorrect use of statistics to bolster these arguments is entirely unacceptable.

The Gambling Commission has noted instances of misuse of statistics from a variety of sources, including gambling operators, trade bodies, charities, media outlets, and venue owners. This misuse extends to complaints filed about others’ misuse of statistics, even when the complainant themselves has used inaccurate data to support their grievance.

Rhodes emphasizes that all parties using statistics to support their arguments must do so accurately and within the appropriate context. In cases where Official Statistics have been inaccurately used, the Gambling Commission will generally assume such misuse is unintentional and will ask the responsible party to rectify the record. Failure to comply or refusal to rectify the situation may lead to the matter being referred to the Office for Statistics Regulation. The Commission reserves the right to publicly challenge the misuse of statistics by any party that fails to correct their inaccuracies.

Rate of problem gambling in GB

Rhodes points out that one of the most common misuses of statistics pertains to the rate of problem gambling in Great Britain and the conflation of problem gambling with gambling-related harm. He clarifies that while these experiences are related, they are distinct. Problem gambling refers to gambling that significantly compromises personal, familial, or recreational pursuits, and it is measured using screening tools such as the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI).

On the other hand, gambling-related harm refers to the negative impacts of gambling on individuals, families, communities, and society. Rhodes notes that there is no single recognized measure of gambling-related harms, but the Commission is developing new survey questions to better understand this issue.

Rhodes addresses specific examples of statistical misuse, particularly the misrepresentation of the problem gambling rate as well as comparisons between different datasets. He stresses the importance of properly understanding and contextualizing statistics to engage in meaningful discussions about gambling.

In closing, Rhodes urges caution and care in using evidence and statistics, ensuring their accurate and appropriate application in discussions about gambling. He underscores that even with a low overall problem gambling rate, the consequences can be catastrophic for those affected and their loved ones.