“There are lies, damned lies and statistics “

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As the dust begins to settle on the latest Gambling Commission Annual Report, something still doesn’t sit right with its gambling statistics, suggests Ken Scott.


Mark Twain declared “there are lies, damned lies and statistics.” Which is probably a useful reference point whenever it comes to assessing gambling statistics. The latest set, found in the recent Gambling Commission Annual Report, suggests that public attitudes to gambling are hardening. Which, for obvious reasons, is very handy to the cause of the UKGC whose duty it is to protect us all from over-reaching gambling operations. But does the statistical analysis stand up to the Twain test, or is the great British public really going anti-gambling?

The answer probably lies in the questions posed in the GC survey, and equally important, the questions possibly omitted.

If asked, do you think it’s fair that people can gamble their life savings away on an FOBT? The answer is clearly no and likely a very hard, firm no. Backed by the weight of anti-FOBT media commentary, you’d have to be a fool to argue that there wasn’t a hardening of opinion against this one specific gambling machine. But if asked about playing on the national lottery, pushers in seaside arcades, the pools, a small bet on Chelsea beating Arsenal in the charity shield, dabbing your card in the bingo hall ….. really? Is it really the case that attitudes to gambling are hardening?

I’d like to think that you’d have to be a fool to argue the case in these instances. But it’s still a worrying prospect that you could ask the right question, to the right cross section, at the right time, and get an answer that suits your narrative.

I must admit to finding it almost impossible to believe that if the public were presented with the full gambling picture, that their attitude would be seen as hardening. I think they would see fun and entertainment, and a grandmother playing bingo rather than playing nanny state.

When it comes to statistics, it’s often rare the Twain shall meet!

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