The relationship between alcohol and gambling behaviours

English | Cymraeg

6 Gorffennaf 2015


Dr Guy Bohane – University of Roehampton Business School; Professor Yvonne Guerrier – Consultant; Dr Raman Sakhuja – Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales; Tzou Vamvakari – Research Assistant

Key findings

  • Health survey prevalence data have identified that participation in gambling is higher amongst more frequent drinkers and those who engage in multiple forms of gambling are more likely to consume more units of alcohol on their heaviest drinking day. However, these data do not indicate whether the drinking and gambling are taking place at the same time.
  • Whilst there is more research on comorbidity and problem gambling, there is relatively little sociological or socio-anthropological research on ‘normal’ gambling behaviour in different sectors and the extent to which and way in which it is combined with alcohol consumption.
  • Destination gambling venues such as land-based casinos and bingo halls are environments where it is possible to observe and, to some extent, to control how drinking and gambling are combined. Operators are required by the regulators to prevent customers who are drunk from gambling. However, there is little research looking at gambling and drinking behaviour in these venues.
  • By contrast in two sectors of the industry which are of current concern to the regulator- machine gambling in betting shops and on-line gambling – it is much harder to observe behaviour. In the former case, the drinking (if it is happening) would be happening at a different venue and in the latter case, because the gambling can be easily hidden (and the drinking as well if both are happening at home). In both these cases there is again little research, although some studies suggest that drinking and on-line gambling are commonly combined.
  • The level of reporting on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and responsible gambling practices by gambling operators shows substantial variations in the nature and extent of reporting. The gambling industry has adopted a wide range of CSR initiatives, some collaboratively, on responsible gambling. However, there are particular concerns around the impact of marketing of gambling on young and vulnerable people especially in relation to aggressive promotions online.
  • International research has identified a consistent theme of alcohol use contributing significantly to impaired control of gambling, and there is a relationship between gambling and binge drinking. Research has also shown that there is a tendency to drink in response to ‘wins’. Environmental, social and cultural factors significantly influence gambling and alcohol consumption. Other research has shown that the extensive use of alcohol and drugs is a significant factor and risk predictor linked to problematic gambling.
  • Gender is a further significant factor when discussing gambling and drinking with higher prevalence levels amongst young males. However research has shown an increase in female participation, particularly online and where there are instant wins. Research undertaken with university students found that student who drink to cope and have other indicators of alcohol problems also gamble to cope, gamble to win and have higher involvement and gambling related problems.
  • Some research has identified the positive benefits of gambling and drinking in terms of beneficial health effects, enjoyment, and social enhancement.
  • When considering treatments for Gambling disorders, whilst the mainstay treatment is currently based on psychosocial interventions and pharmacotherapy for co-morbid conditions, there is an increasing understanding of the overlap of genetics and brain mechanisms involved in Alcohol Use Disorders and gambling. This implies that the treatments used in alcohol may be transferrable in principle to gambling disorders.

Note: This report was funded and/or written by our predecessor organisation Alcohol Concern.

Executive Summary

This multi-disciplinary literature review explores the literature on gambling and alcohol behaviours in the UK including Wales and internationally. In the light of concerns expressed about significant health problems associated with problem gambling and alcohol addiction the review considers the topic from a sociological and cultural perspective as well as from a clinical and treatment focus. Gambling and alcohol research and literature is also reviewed from the perspective of gambling operators and their corporate social responsibility and responsible gambling practices. The review finally proposes recommendation for further research in this field.