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  • 9th Dec 2022

Atypical paths to play: Women, ethnic minorities & gambling related harms

Historically, gambling research has focused on the white male gambler. Given the prevalence of this group in gambling statistics, this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, a focus on this group alone risks neglecting the growing number of women and ethnic minorities who are gambling and experiencing gambling harms. 

The Gambling Policy & Research Unit (GPRU) has made these groups a specific focus of our research. We recently revisited four of our past experiments to re-examine the data, focusing on how results differ between white male gamblers and women and ethnic minorities. In this blog, we present our findings through three personas: George, Olivia and Raheem.

Note, these personas are designed to represent the average gambling experience of each demographic group and are not intended to represent the experience of every member of the group, eg we know not all women just play bingo, but on average, our results show that the average woman prefers bingo to other games. 

George: The “Typical white male gambler”

George earns £24,000 per year and likes to gamble. George has accounts with several different gambling operators and likes to spread his time across multiple games.

He thinks he is quite skilled at gambling, so avoids games he believes are based on luck alone, such as bingo. George enjoys gambling and overall is not too concerned about his behaviour.  

We wanted this blog’s focus to be on underrepresented groups. As most existing gambling services and interventions already target people like George, we haven’t expanded here on what else could be done to support him.  

Olivia: Experiences of the female gambler

Olivia also likes to gamble. Where George likes to play many different types of gambling, Olivia prefers to stick to bingo and slot machines. 

She doesn’t like to play skill based games as she thinks she is not very good at them unlike George who much prefers these games as he thinks he is a highly skilled gambler. Olivia is more likely to be swayed by operators that offer better bonuses and promotions, easier withdrawals and have more gaming options than George. Unlike George, Olivia is quite concerned about her gambling habits. Her priority is to reduce the amount of money she spends gambling whereas George is less concerned by this.

So what can be done to help Olivia? While carrying out a survey investigating the Lower Risk Gambling Guidelines, we found that women are more likely than men to want to reduce the amount of money and time they spend on gambling, as well as the types of gambling they partake in, after seeing the guidelines.

However, while these may be more effective for women than men, our research shows that guidelines alone are unlikely to be sufficient to help Olivia. We need a greater focus in research on what specifically works for women, both in terms of prevention and treatment.

For example, investigating what would support women to spend less time on non-skilled games specifically. GamCare’s Women’s Programme is just the starting point for this. 

Raheem: Experiences of the ethnic minority gambler

Raheem does not gamble as often as George but is much more likely than George to say that he has self-excluded from gambling in the past 12 months.

Raheem spreads out his playing time across more different games than George, but more often than George he likes placing bets on football matches and playing online slot machines.

Raheem feels that gambling makes his life worse, more so than George, who largely feels neutrally towards gambling. 

So what can be done to help Raheem? From the data, we think that interventions tackling online slots and sports advertisements would have a larger impact on Raheem than George.

However, the greatest thing we can do to help Raheem is to continue to collect data specifically focused on ethnic minority groups. The lack of evidence on this group throughout research remains an issue, even within our own experiments where we struggle to recruit sufficient samples to make statistical comparisons.

This is also the reason why we were unable to look at individual ethnic groups, and we could only compare ethnic minority gamblers to white gamblers.

What do George, Olivia and Raheem tell us about how we research and tackle gambling harm? 

  1. Experiences of gambling and gambling-related harm are different. When designing interventions, researchers should be clear about which groups are most impacted by the intervention and, more importantly, which groups may be less impacted.
  2. Focus is still needed on the ‘typical gambler’. Further research on women and ethnic minorities should not come at the expense of reduced research on the white male gambler.
  3. We need a continued focus on collecting data for minority ethnic groups. We could not provide statistically significant comparisons in most cases, as we simply did not have large enough samples of ethnic minorities. This was the case even where we grouped ethnic minorities. It would be even better if we could differentiate between ethnic groups.
  4. Completely absent from the above personas was Michelle, a black woman. Research to-date severely lacks evidence on the impacts to intersectional groups. 

What’s next for the GPRU: We’ll continue to try and collect data wherever possible, particularly for ethnic minorities and intersectional groups. We’ll also make clearer in our results where we think interventions will have the greatest and least effect, to be transparent of the limitations of our own work.