A recent Health Impact Assessment (HIA) conducted by the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University has revealed concerning trends in gambling habits in Guernsey. The study, commissioned in 2019, aimed to examine the prevalence and impact of gambling on the local population.
The findings of the assessment indicate that Guernsey has a significantly higher percentage of gamblers compared to neighboring jurisdictions. A staggering 79.9% of respondents reported engaging in gambling activities over the previous year, surpassing figures for the Isle of Man (75.9%) and Great Britain (57%). The most popular form of gambling was the Channel Islands Christmas Lottery, with 67.5% participation, followed closely by the purchase of scratch cards.
Dr. Nicola Brink, Director of Public Health, expressed concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing economic challenges on gambling trends. She suggested that the current situation might be more severe than the study indicates, given the added pressures of the pandemic.
The HIA employed a mixed-methods approach, including a postal survey, qualitative interviews with stakeholders and gamblers, and a stakeholder workshop. The research, conducted between September 2019 and February 2020, faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the publication of the report at the start of 2024.
Key findings from the study revealed that gamblers exhibited a higher prevalence of poor health indicators compared to non-gamblers, including issues such as overweight/obesity, regular GP visits, tobacco smoking, binge drinking, violence victimization, and perpetration. Notably, 46.3% of adults in Guernsey engaged in scratch card usage, compared to 29.3% in the Isle of Man and 21% in Great Britain.
The study identified 6.7% of Guernsey adults as ‘at-risk’ gamblers and 0.9% as ‘problem’ gamblers. At-risk gambling was more prevalent among males and the 18-24 age group, indicating potential issues for the future.
Jenny Cataroche, Head of Public Health Intelligence, emphasized the need for actions to address at-risk and problem gambling, highlighting that these measures could have positive effects on individuals, as well as their families and communities.
The report recommends various measures, including raising awareness of the harms of problem gambling in school-based education settings, enhancing support for at-risk and problem gamblers, clarifying pathways to access support, and considering policy and legislation changes to protect vulnerable islanders.
In response to the findings, STSB Senior Lottery Officer, Jon Taylor, affirmed their commitment to promoting responsible play and announced initiatives to address the concerns raised by the study. They also stated that they would conduct additional research to inform the future direction of the Channel Islands Lottery.