More than eight out of ten (82%) consumers have stopped or reduced their gambling since registering with GAMSTOP, according to the first independent evaluation of the UK’s online self-exclusion scheme.
The report by research consultancy Sonnet, based on surveys of more than 3,300 users and in-depth interviews, found that 84% felt safer from gambling-related harm and more in control of their gambling after registering with GAMSTOP. Eight out of ten (80%) said that the self-exclusion scheme had delivered on their intended outcomes, whether they wanted to stop gambling completely, reduce their gambling or simply to take a short break.
Although financial losses were often an important trigger for registering with GAMSTOP, consumers also reported significant improvements in their well-being:
- 77% felt more in control of their personal or household finances
- 72% reported improvements in their levels of anxiety and stress
- 63% enjoyed an improvement in the quality of their family relationships
- 60% found they were better able to focus at work
- 40% reported they were consuming less alcohol
The report’s recommendations include:
- Longer self-exclusion periods – currently, the maximum self-exclusion is five years, which had been selected by 71% of consumers surveyed, but four out of ten wanted the option of excluding themselves from all online gambling for longer
- Helping consumers to access specialist support – 53% of GAMSTOP’s users have not previously used gambling-related support services so the scheme can be a bridge to other organisations offering help with gambling addiction by working more closely with them
- Actively engaging with family and friends of consumers – only 28% of consumers were supported by friends or family, with many too embarrassed or ashamed to seek help, so raising awareness of the service among those affected by a loved one’s gambling will provide a broader support network for consumers and their families
- Responding to the threat posed by unlicensed gambling websites – The scheme’s users are deliberately targeted by unlicensed sites – an issue highlighted in GAMSTOP’s response to the DCMS Gambling Act review – and 10% reported accessing them while self-excluded so greater controls on these sites are required to prevent them being exposed to temptation
- More research into the harmful effects of advertising – consumers consistently expressed their frustration at being exposed to gambling advertising and wanted greater protection
More than 200,000 consumers have registered with GAMSTOP since the scheme’s inception in 2018. The report found that GAMSTOP had reached a broad cross-section of the population across all demographic groups.
Women aged over 44 were identified as an important demographic, making up 53% of all women surveyed, and the report recommends reaching out to older age groups more generally, together with specific initiatives aimed at people with below national average income. It advocates a marketing strategy to target high-risk groups, making the service more visible through online searches and on operators’ websites.
The report concludes:
“This study shows very strongly that GAMSTOP is successfully achieving a reduction in gambling-related harm with far-reaching positive impacts for consumers being clearly shown in our interviews and survey… Our findings show that GAMSTOP is effective across all age groups, gender groups and, importantly, for all types of online gambling.
The vast majority (of consumers) report a very positive experience of using the service, and our research highlights that it is effective both in terms of delivering consumers’ objectives but also in alleviating a wide range of gambling-related harms”.
The lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 were challenging periods for consumers struggling to control their gambling, with 30% feeling adverse effects, including the temptation to gamble, and 9% reported an increase in their gambling during this period. Overall, the most susceptible group was 18-24-year-olds, but, across all age groups, women were more likely than men to have been tempted to gamble or started gambling during lockdown.
An office worker in his 30s, who was spending up to £300 per spin on online slot machines and ran up debts of more than £10,000, registered with GAMSTOP after his partner left him and he feared losing his job. He told researchers that, having self-excluded for five years, he felt safe from temptation during lockdown and has stopped gambling completely. He is now paying back his debts to family and friends and said: “I think this service saved my life. Best thing I ever did is cancel my demons by using this amazing service”.
A delivery driver in her mid-twenties, who was spending almost her entire weekly wage on gambling, and had tried self-excluding from individual websites, found that registering with GAMSTOP helped her take control of her gambling. She is getting married this year and has built up her savings. With the support of her family and partner, she has restricted herself to the occasional £5 bet on football at high street bookmakers and intends to renew her self-exclusion every five years to resist the temptation of betting online.
She said: “The last year I haven’t gambled at all, it was hard at first but now I don’t miss it and the money I have saved is unbelievable”.
Fiona Palmer, chief executive of GAMSTOP, said:
“We are grateful to Sonnet for carrying out this very detailed evaluation of the service and are studying their recommendations carefully. We are delighted to know that vulnerable consumers who have registered with GAMSTOP have found it has helped them control their gambling and made a positive impact on their lives.
The insights in this report are extremely helpful and we welcome the opportunity to look at all suggestions for further improvements to the service, including extending the length of the maximum exclusion period to give them peace of mind that they will benefit from the long-term protection that GAMSTOP provides”.