ommissioned by the Gambling Commission and undertaken by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), the researchers conducted in-depth follow-up interviews with 43 participants last summer from the British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007.
As an exploratory study, the researchers aimed to provide further insight into participants' gambling behaviour, exploring how and when the participants gamble, and what they enjoyed about it. The study was also used, where relevant, to explore the downsides of gambling, and where problem gambling behaviour is currently (or has been) an issue for participants, to investigate the causes and associated factors of this.
Based on their own descriptions of their gambling behaviour and orientation, four types of gambler were identified by this study: peripheral gambler, gambling enthusiast, business gambler and compulsive gambler.
Gambling was fairly marginal to those within the 'peripheral gambler' category and they not did necessarily perceive what they did to be gambling. Their motivation to gamble was primarily something other than the gambling itself, for example the social experience or to get a large win from a small outlay.
The 'gambling enthusiast' was characterised by the fact that they gambled frequently but did not feel any compulsion to gamble. They were motivated by the challenge of winning money through outsmarting bookmakers or other players and were focused on the use of skill and knowledge to do so.
The defining feature of the category of the 'business gambler' is that gambling is seen as a business rather than a hobby or leisure pursuit. Some characteristics of the 'business gambler' are shared with those of the 'gambling enthusiast', such as the level of control over spending and preparing for gambling activities.
The key characteristic of the category of 'compulsive gambler' was that those within it felt a powerful internal drive to gamble and gambling could become a central and controlling feature of their life. The motivation to gamble, at least initially, was the feelings of excitement and the ‘buzz’ that came from ‘beating the system’.
The typology presented reinforced the view that behaviour alone is not enough to define meaningful categories within the gambling field. The study found that similar patterns of behaviour were described by people with a different orientation or approach to gambling.
The categories identified fit with the view that people's engagement in gambling exists along a spectrum, rather than fitting into the simple categories of non-problem and problem gambling. Within each category there was a diversity of engagement.
The study noted that the categories of gambler were dynamic rather than static, with people describing moving in and out of the categories at different points in their lives, including those who described themselves as feeling ‘compelled' to gamble at some point.
The most salient theme in terms of factors influencing people's experiences of gambling was the interaction between personal factors and social context. Social and personal factors were also described as playing a role in both triggering and facilitating a move either into, or out of, compulsive gambling behaviour.
The study also explored both the positive and negative impacts of gambling. Gambling was seen as a fun, social, activity by some, and winning led to an increased sense of self-confidence. Participants who had limited contact with gambling, i.e playing the lottery, did not always define these activities as gambling, the definition being primarily based on the amounts they gambled.
In-depth interviews were carried out with 43 participants in the summer of 2008. This method of data collection was used because the aims of the study required a detailed exploration of the behaviour and experiences of participants, and an analysis of the factors affecting their gambling behaviour.
The respondents were selected on the basis of their responses to the problem gambling screens administered at the time, with 15 non-problem gamblers, 17 at-risk gamblers, and 11 problem gamblers being recruited to the study.