Impact case study
Changing International Commercial Gambling Practices and Policies for More Socially Responsible Gaming
Unit(s) of assessment: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Research theme: Health and Wellbeing
School: School of Social Sciences
Problem gambling is a major issue worldwide with prevalence rates between 0.5%-2% in most countries. NTU conducts research into the many factors that contribute to problematic gambling behaviour and has driven major developments in responsible gaming (RG) tools which reduce the risk of problem gambling. Professor Griffiths’ research has underpinned the design and continued optimisation of RG tools used by international gambling operators and regulators with a global reach of tens of millions of individuals, including:
(i) GAM-GaRD, adopted into the company social responsibility protocols of over 50 gambling operators and regulators in over 20 countries.
(ii) Mentor, used by leading European gambling operators and independently evaluated as helping individuals gamble more responsibly.
Griffiths research has also underpinned the national and international development of RG Codes of Conduct, including those implemented by the Association of British Bookmakers (overseeing 85% of UK sports betting shops) and the China Sports Lottery (overseeing all 31 provinces in China).
Since 2000, Griffiths has published over 30 research papers identifying the structural characteristics of games that encourage gambling. These include event frequency, stake size, size of the jackpot, speed of the game, and illusion of control elements. Understanding elements associated with problematic play can help in harm minimisation and the design of safer games. This research formed the basis of the responsible gambling [RG] tool GAM-GaRD [Gambling Assessment Measure: Guidance about Responsible Design] as follows:
Griffiths’ research into the structural characteristics and situational characteristics (i.e., features that are external to the gambler such as marketing, advertising, and the number of gambling venues in the environment) of gambling pinpointed the most important factors associated with problem gambling and co-developed GAM-GaRD with Dr. Richard Wood (CEO, GamRes, Canada) to help game developers design more responsible lower-risk games for vulnerable and susceptible individuals (Funder: Camelot Plc £40,000). This research began in 2006 and led to the commercial development of GAM-GaRD.
In 2010, Griffiths and Wood developed the Responsible Gambling Impact Index (commissioned by Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation CAD$250,000), a tool which was designed for gambling operators to make well-informed decisions about developing and implementing RG tools and features. The tool was based on situational characteristics rather than the structural factors identified in GAM-GaRD. The index was then incorporated into GAM-GaRD and since the last REF cycle has been sold and licensed as GAM-GaRD 2.0 in 2014.
Subsequently, Griffiths’ research (particularly on limit-setting as a responsible gambling tool) was used in the development of GAM-GaRD 3.0 in 2016 in which game risk scores on GAM-GaRD could be mitigated by use of limit-setting tools by gambling operators. In the last six years, the number of gambling operators using GAM-GaRD has almost doubled. Furthermore, its national use across every province in China and Canada has led to significant increase in terms of reach since 2014.
With Dr Michael Auer (former NTU PhD student), Griffiths carried out a study in 2014 with 100,000 real online gamblers and developed a new measure of gambling intensity called ‘theoretical loss’. This measure was used as the basis for Griffiths’ subsequent research demonstrating the effectiveness of RG tools such as limit-setting, pop-up messaging, and personalised feedback using ‘big data’ provided by the gambling industry. These are just three of the many studies that Griffiths has published showing that limit-setting and bespoke personalized feedback are particularly effective in significantly reducing the amount of money spent by gambling-intense individuals. As the Association of British Bookmakers note: “One of Professor Griffiths’ most valuable contributions was in the area of limit setting. His 2013 paper is the only study to date carried out with real gamblers (n=100,000) in real time on a real gambling site (win2day), and demonstrated that limit setting is an effective responsible gambling tool for the most gambling intense players”.
This research also underpinned the development of another RG tool (Mentor – developed by Griffiths and Auer between 2012 and 2014) with Neccton, an Austrian data mining company with expertise in the European banking and gambling sector. Mentor provides personalised feedback to gamblers in real time about their gambling behaviour and is used by leading gambling operators across Europe including the Gauselmann Group (Germany, Austria, Denmark), Austrian Lotteries (Austria), ComeOn (Sweden), Greentube (UK, Spain), The Mill Adventure (Sweden) and Skillonnet (UK, Denmark, Spain). The tool provides gamblers with accurate information about their actual gambling behaviour (e.g., time and money spent gambling) across different time periods (e.g., weekly, monthly, half-yearly) and also presents players with normative data from other gamblers in the database so that gamblers can compare their own behaviour with others and facilitate self-appraisal and help enable behavioural change.
Griffiths’ research has provided unique evidence for the development of two Responsible Gaming (RG) tools, GAM-GaRD and Mentor, which have significantly changed day-to-day practices in world-wide gambling operators, and underpinned UK and international codes of conduct which aim to significantly reduce problem gambling.
Optimisation and Adoption of GAM-GaRD RG tool
GAM-GaRD (GAM-GaRD 2.0 since 2014 and GAM-GaRD 3.0 since 2016) is a commercially available online tool used by gaming companies, and co-developed by Griffiths. This tool assesses ten of the most important characteristics of gambling games (e.g. accessibility, event frequency, stake size, jackpot size, etc.) and offers gaming operators practical ways to reduce the risks of gambling addiction by altering the game’s structural characteristics before marketing it. The World Lottery Association recommended that all its companies use such a tool as part of their social responsibility accreditation procedures.
The latest version of GAM-GaRD is now used by over 50 of the world’s biggest operators and gambling regulators in over 20 countries, including operators in Canada, UK, USA, China, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Morocco, Hong Kong, South Korea and Uruguay. The tool is also used by gaming regulators (e.g., Norway, Sweden, UK). In some countries, (e.g., Norway) it is not possible to obtain gambling licences without GAM-GaRD accreditation.
Development and introduction of Mentor RG tool
Griffiths and Auer also co-developed the world’s first personalized messaging system [Mentor] that uses gamblers’ online tracking data to provide bespoke information and feedback to gamblers about their wins, losses, deposits and time spent gambling. Since 2014, a number of operators in Europe now use this tool (e.g., Germany, Austria, Spain, UK, Sweden and Norway). The beneficiaries are the estimated five million gamblers who use Mentor as a way of reducing their risk of developing gambling problems.
Impact on UK and international regulators of commercial gambling
Griffiths’ research with Auer underpins the recent Association of British Bookmakers’ (ABB) Code of Conduct for Responsible Gambling. A key consequence of this work is that since 2015, every fixed-odds betting machine in every UK betting shop now allows players to set their own limits on how much time and/or money they want to spend gambling.
Griffiths also won an international competitive tender by the Norwegian Government’s monopoly gaming operator to evaluate Norsk Tipping’s responsible gambling portfolio. To date, this research has assessed the efficacy of the company’s new (i) global loss limit (introduced in November 2016), (ii) the loss-limit reminder informing players when they have reached 80% of their loss limits, and (iii) mandatory play breaks.
Ultimately, Griffiths’ research has played a critical role in the development of RG tools and RG Codes of Conduct across four continents. Testimonials demonstrate that these codes have informed the day-to-day practices of international gambling operators and that recommendations from Griffiths’ research have enhanced socially responsible practices with the aim of reducing problem gambling among tens of millions of gamblers.
- Griffiths, M.D. & Auer, M. (2013). The irrelevancy of game-type in the acquisition, development and maintenance of problem gambling. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 621. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00621
- Wood, R.T.A., Shorter, G.W. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Rating the suitability of responsible gambling features for specific game types: A resource for optimizing responsible gambling strategy. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12, 94–112. doi: 10.1007/s11469-013-9473-y
- Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Voluntary limit setting and player choice in most intense online gamblers: An empirical study of gambling behaviour. Journal of Gambling Studies, 29, 647-660. doi:10.1007/s10899-012-9332-y
- Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). An empirical investigation of theoretical loss and gambling intensity. Journal of Gambling Studies, 30, 879-887. doi: 10.1007/s10899-013- 9376-7
- Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Testing normative and self-appraisal feedback in an online slot-machine pop-up message in a real-world setting. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 339. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00339
- Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). The use of personalized behavioral feedback for problematic online gamblers: An empirical study. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1406. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01406