Process and impact evaluation of gambling prevalence and harm-minimisation support in Leeds City region.

The ‘Gambling Prevalence’ evaluation, was commissioned by Leeds City Council in advance of the opening of the GGV ‘super-casino’ in Leeds City Centre. The ex-ante evaluation provided a baseline of gambling prevalence across the wider Leeds metropolitan area and an initial review of referral and support services for problem gamblers and those at risk.

What was the evaluation about?

Leeds City Council (LCC) licenced Global Gaming Ventures (GGV) to open a large casino as part of the Victoria Gate city centre redevelopment; this was to be the 4th largest casino in Britain. The evaluation was commissioned following a public consultation raising some concerns about an increased risk of problem gambling, and insufficient support services. The evaluation was to provide independent evidence to guide a city-wide and multi-stakeholder harm-minimisation strategy.

When was it done, who by?

The four-month evaluation started in April 2016. It was commissioned from a team led by Prof David Parsons and Dr Alex Kenyon of Leeds Beckett University, following a national competition open to all bidders. Team members involved Dr Heather Wardle to provide continuity with other harm-minimisation research nationally.

How was it done?

The intensive evaluation needed to make best use of available national and local data, supplemented by evidence from operators, support providers, referral and other agencies, as well as ‘at risk’ gamblers. A large scale resident-based ‘prevalence’ survey would have had data collection and validity challenges, budget and time constraints. Instead the team put together a prevalence analysis based on DSMV IV and PGSI data from the National Gambling Prevalence Survey (NGPS) and the Health Survey for England (HSE) using sub-regional samples, regional and national data. The evaluation combined:

  • A ‘Quick Scoping’ rapid evidence review to update the review Exploring Gambling-related harm: who is vulnerable? National study (2015) and assess Leeds implications.
  • Prevalence analysis based on Leeds and 8 comparator areas (selected by matching socio-economic and demographic profiles from official DEFRA and other data sets).
  • Additional prevalence and trend data was collected from sector bodies and sampled retail operators.
  • Further evidence from a stakeholder consultation and semi-structured interviews with 20 stakeholder organisations, including generic, specialist and gambling specific support bodies in the city-region. Interviews were also conducted with carefully selected ‘at risk’ gamblers after an ethically-controlled, operator and stakeholder-based recruitment process.

Interim analyses were prepared and considered at three meetings of a cross-stakeholder steering group chaired by LCC, as were a draft and final report and recommendations. The report was launched in March 2017 following LCC further stakeholder discussions on ways forward.

What worked well?

The evaluation team worked independently in evidence collection, analysis and recommendations, but in close collaboration with LCC. The evaluation showed how much could be achieved in setting baselines for any future evaluation from sophisticated comparative analysis using existing data sets, combined with a wider ‘qualitative’ engagement of stakeholders. Reporting to a large multi-stakeholder steering group raised local confidence in the analysis. This also helped with access to local agencies (only two refused to take part), and added to the credibility of the LCC action plan developed following the evaluation.

What lessons were learnt?

The evaluation provided a comparative review of gambling prevalence in Leeds which can be harnessed for monitoring any changing features, trends and support needs. It identified gaps in referral arrangements and between demand and provision for specialist services, and provided recommendations for addressing those gaps. It also showed that the inter-relationships between retail operators (and between retail and online providers) means that any future impact evaluation of changes in gambling-related harm needs to be conducted across gambling sectors and not be limited to a single operator, such as the new casino.

Further information

The evaluation report is available here.