Peter Hannibal, chief executive of strategic body the Gambling Business Group, has warned that government policy on gambling and the ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to update the law is being influenced by the extrapolated findings of a small sample Swedish survey despite warnings from the authors not to generalise their findings and apply them to different societies. 

In an exclusive analysis, Peter Hannibal said that some of the outcomes allegedly contained in the yet to be published white paper which has been widely leaked to media channels were based on what he termed ‘flawed evidence’ adding that the delay in publishing the white paper has presented the industry with an opportunity to interrogate further the accuracy of the data and how it is being deployed by those groups and individuals with prejudicial views of the industry.  

He states: “The former Gambling Minister was quoted as recognising the influence that the Public Health England (PHE) report ‘Gambling-related harms evidence review; the economic and social cost of harms’ had on the Gambling Review.

“Now whilst the title gives this report some instant gravitas, we soon learn that the ‘evidence’ chosen for the PHE review was almost entirely speculative. Evidence of harms was drawn largely from small sample international studies with findings misapplied to survey data from England.” “PHE researchers ignored warnings from the very researchers whose work they used in the exercise.”

He added: “Around 50 percent of the alleged ‘economic and social cost of harms’ are based upon PHE’s estimate that 409 deaths by suicide in England in 2019 were associated with ‘problem gambling only’. While this figure has been bandied around in the press and in Parliament, it is in fact entirely speculative. It is based on not one single case of suicide in England, but instead involves an extrapolation from hospital patients with Gambling Disorder in Sweden between 2005 and 2016.

“PHE elected not to disclose the precise numerical calculation and subsequent attempts to obtain the calculation under the Freedom of Information Act have been denied by the Department of Health and Social Care. In June, the MP, Scott Benton submitted a Parliamentary Question in order to obtain the information – but more than five weeks after the official deadline for response, the Culture Secretary has still not replied.”

He concludes: “The absence of hard data on prevalence in Great Britain does not justify fabrication of statistics. Indeed, it may be considered deeply irresponsible given the potential negative consequences.” 

The Gambling Business Group confirmed that it will be liaising with relevant Government bodies to raise concerns surrounding the research and its influence on the drafting of the Gambling Review.