Oxford research looks into gambling harm — but flawed methodology falls short

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Oxford research looks into gambling harm - but flawed methodology falls short

Research from Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention has found that high levels of gambling are associated with a 37% increase in mortality.

According to the research, the top 1% of gamblers surveyed spent 58% of their income on the pastime and one in 10 are spending 8% of their income.

Researchers examined the association between gambling as a proportion of monthly income, using anonymous data provided by a UK retail bank, aggregated for up to 6.5 million individuals over up to seven years. 

Only half the picture

The research, however, falls well short of providing a rounded picture, as online deposits and not withdrawals are measured.

A gambler’s habits can be markedly different from one case to another. For instance, what if Player A deposited £1,000 ($1,369) but only wagered £200? What if Player B deposited £1,000 and withdrew £900, meaning they had a loss of £100? Both of these cases would demonstrate incredibly different gambling patterns to someone who deposited £1,000 and lost it all.

As such, in only showing half of the picture, the research paints a one-sided picture that doesn’t tell us much about the true gambling of those in the sample group.

Other factors ignored

There is also no specification of actual gameplay; it has not been made clear whether these gamblers have played poker, casino games or placed bets on sports.

Nor does the research use a holistic approach, as gambling is singled out as the cause of a number of health problems and outcomes.

But no regard is given to the impact of other spending habits, such as food & drink, alcohol, tobacco and more. When assessing the potential health of those in its sample group, this is another truly gaping flaw.

A fair review

All in all, the research has attempted to prove that gambling is essentially harmful at all levels. But it hasn’t really done that. Gambling addiction exists and problem gambling can lead to health issues, of this there has never been any doubt.

This research, however, hasn’t added anything meaningful to the equation. The Betting & Gaming Council recently produced research that showed the number of UK players using black market sites has increased – it is sure to have been met by criticism from anti-gambling campaigners.

Given the attention reports like the BGC’s receive, it is only fair research arguing for the opposite side of the debate is equally scrutinised. Sadly, the visible limitations of this Oxford methodology bring its findings into question.

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