Philip Newall

No credible evidence that UK safer gambling messages reduce gambling

Aims: Effective safer gambling messages are a strategic priority for the UK’s gambling regulator, the Gambling Commission. ‘When the fun stops, stop’ is the most commonly-seen UK gambling message, but this message’s safer gambling face validity has been questioned, in part due to its emphasis on the word ‘fun.’ The aim was to see if presenting these messages in a concurrent gambling task led to reductions in gambling behaviour compared to a no-message control condition.

Method: A large-scale (‘N’ = 1,500) preregistered online experimental test of this message’s impact on concurrent gambling behaviour, using a realistic online roulette game with earned endowments and real monetary outcomes. Participants were either shown the original message, a new design from 2019, or no message. The dependent variable was the proportion of a £3 endowment earned through an earlier unrelated task that was lost in the roulette game.

Results: Bayesian 95% credibility intervals revealed generally small estimated effects, with intervals containing zero. The one exception was a backfire effect, whereby participants gambled a higher proportion of available funds when the original ‘When the fun stops, stop’ message was shown.

Conclusions: UK safer gambling messages do not reduce concurrent gambling behaviour, and may even backfire. This research demonstrates how the independent evaluation of safer gambling messages can inform evidence-based gambling policy.

Presentation slides:
No credible evidence that UK safer gambling messages reduce gambling