On the 26th June 2015, the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) launched an invitation to tender research and investigation into “the nature and extent of ‘problem gambling’ behaviour in licensed bingo retail operations in Great Britain.” The project will have a total budget of £125,000. The overall timescale for this work will be approximately 6 months, ending April 2016.
The Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) is the leading authority and charity to prevent gambling addiction as well as other gambling related harm, such as financial problems. They have previously sponsored much acclaimed research into casino based problem gambling. Bingo has up to this point been a largely unexplored area in comparison to card games, slot machines, roulette etc.
Expectations for this new bingo research is to include a literature review from relevant background sources, such as data derived from recent British health and prevalence survey. Then, a practical investigation using methodological approaches for data collection, coding and analysis. Findings will at last be presented and discussed by researchers to consider their validity, as well as made accessible to a wide range of stakeholders.
All RGT research is guided by the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB), who have adopted a three year time-frame analysing people who are potentially vulnerable; understanding risks and harms; harm prevention; and treatment and research.
Some “vulnerable groups” have already been identified as susceptible to gambling problems in general, including: 16-24 year olds, Asian and Black British, those from socially deprived areas, the unemployed, heavily engaged gamblers, those with Anti-Social Personality Disorder, adolescents (especially those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Males were previously included in the above list, but the category has been removed in recent years due to the proportional rise of women who are problem gamblers. In fact, this is perhaps due to the ‘female friendly’ face of bingo, making research into the area all the more important and relevant to modern gambling culture.
Although mostly looked on favourably, some criticisms have emerged over the upcoming bingo research. For example, the official invitation to tender specifically prioritises “problem gambling in traditional licensed Bingo Club venues.” Therefore, it appears much of the research will exclude online sites. Is this wise though? There are estimated over 2 million Brits who play online bingo in the UK, compared to much smaller figures for bingo halls. Not to mention 24 hour access to bingo websites. Surely research geared towards the online market would be more productive. Then again, these sites might fall under a separate research campaign RGT is endorsing. which will tackle “Remote Gambling” on various electronic devices.
Regardless of its limitations, research into bingo is much needed in the modern world, especially considering some very severe, high-profile cases of bingo addiction in the past year. A Cambridge University Finance Officer, Jacqueline Balaam, was even jailed for stealing nearly £300,000 from one of the most famous colleges to fuel her addiction, squandering more than £6 million on online bingo. In another example, Kelly Nield, a mother age 32, racked up debts of 45,000 and maxed out five credit cards, all after she caught a Foxy Bingo advert on the Jeremy Kyle show. Liekwise, Marilyn Jones was left thousands of pounds in debt playing online bingo for up to 15 hours a day, every day, for ten years. She now says, “If it wasn’t for therapy at Beacon I wouldn’t be sat here today. I’d caused so much trouble and hurt I didn’t want to be here anymore. I couldn’t carry on doing this to myself yet I couldn’t stop gambling.”
Therapy as described above is often the most viable solution for severe gambling problems. Indeed, the RGT stresses the need to develop treatments according to collected and recorded comparable data, taking into account the treatment population (who needs treatment), the effectiveness of treatment, attrition (what causes people to drop out), outcomes and cost/value for money. Therefore, hopes are high that a new wave of bingo research can uncover better treatment plans.