Report Shows Gamblers Have Less Bank Savings

Study commissioned by UK gaming charity looks to bank customer and transactional data for clues into identifying and treating problem gambling.
Report Shows Gamblers Have Less Bank Savings
By August 02, 2021

A new report by UK gaming charity GambleAware shows gamblers on average had less money in their savings accounts than non-gamblers and spent triple on gambling during the week before a gambling blocker was implemented.

The report, conducted by the charity’s Behavioral Insights Team (BIT), illustrates that bank customer and transactional data can provide valuable insight into the profile of gamblers, as well as the impact of gambling blocking tools.

BIT researchers analyzed transactional data from t*wo UK-based banks, HSBC and Monzo, to look for patterns into how people gamble,* to identify signs of addiction and to better inform strategies to prevent, treat and support people with gambling problems. Monzo, an online bank, offers the gambling blocker that was studied by researchers.

According to the report, gamblers rated by HSBC as having a “very concerning” gambling problem averaged 35.6 gambling transactions per month. By comparison, people rated by the bank with a “concerning” problem averaged 15.6 gambling transactions per month, while the control group averaged just 1.2 transactions.

GambleAware said the datasets don’t provide enough information as to whether a banking customer is at risk for problem gambling, and that any single banking dataset is unlikely to offer a customer’s full spending profile. The charity said additional research was necessary.

“Our research with HSBC and Monzo has demonstrated that bank transactional data can be a useful tool in identifying gambling behaviors and the unique profiles of gamblers, but further work is needed to understand how such data can be used robustly,” said BIT advisor Simon McNair. “Different banks may use different factors and different thresholds to identify gambling, and future work could look at developing a more standard operating model of how this kind of data should be used to identify those at risk of harm.”

The banks were also interested learning the best ways to support their customers through strategies to identify problem gambling behavior. “This includes opt-in solutions such as a gambling restriction feature to help people control their urge to gamble, and automatic declines or referrals for lending to help prevent the customer from getting into debt,” said Maxine Pritchard, head of financial inclusion and vulnerability at HSBC. “Customers can also appoint third parties to help manage their finances, either through a third-party mandate or our Independence Service. In addition, our s*pecialist support team are on hand to aid customers at risk of financial harm* and can refer to trusted external organizations where needed.”

Natalie Ledward, head of vulnerable customers at Monzo, said its gambling block had been utilized by more than 350,000 customers since it debuted in 2017. “We’re excited to use these insights to inform future work in this area, further reduce gambling harm and provide our customers with even more control over their financial lives,” Ledward said.

Guide for financial service firms developed with University of Bristol

GambleAware has also partnered with the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) to create a practical guide for financial services seeking to protect customers from gambling-related financial harm.

The guide is designed to offer real-life examples of what firms can do to identify and support customers who are at risk. It also explains why it’s important for firms to proactively analyze customer transaction data for spending patterns and behavioral signs that could signal trouble, and for firms to take action to prevent harm from occurring.

The charity said the guide also offers practical actions to firms, such as building their staff’s skills and capabilities in customer interactions and communications. Firms may also consider the harm from problem gambling when designing products and services.

“At a conservative estimate, at least f*ive million people in Britain experience harmful gambling*, either because of their own gambling or someone else’s,” said PFRC Director Sharon Collard. “Regulated financial services firms are well-placed to address the financial harm linked to gambling-related vulnerability and our practical guide shows them how. Doing this may have knock-on benefits for other dimensions of gambling harm, such as people’s mental health.”

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