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Research report: Gambling and problem debt

Read the report

StepChange has partnered with the Personal Finance Research Centre at the University of Bristol to explore the link between gambling and problem debt.

This project involves analysis of debt advice situations and research interviews to discover more about StepChange clients’ experiences with gambling and debt, and whether there are ways to reduce the harm caused by gambling related debt.

The report is authored by Sharon Collard, Sara Davies and Jamie Evans of the Personal Finance Research Centre at the University of Bristol.

The research finds:

Gambling and debt issues are often extremely complex

Gambling and debt issues can lead to extremely complex situations which require effective support. The length of time over which debts built up; the sheer number of different types of debts; the high value of the debt; secrecy around both gambling and debt; co-occurring issues such as substance misuse and mental health problems; borrowing from family members; and gambling-related crime can all contribute to this complexity.

Effective support is essential to address gambling related debt

‘Affected others’ often go unseen

The research uncovered findings about clients who had been financially affected by someone else’s gambling. These ‘affected others’ often face some distinctive barriers to seeking help with their debts. This includes being unable to talk to creditors about debts that are in a partner’s name; being the victim of gambling-related fraud by a partner or ex-partner; and being wholly or partly unaware of gambling problems and gambling debt.

Affected others’ are the unseen casualties of gambling-related debt

Addressing gambling and debt issues often leads to better debt resolution

The clients who were interviewed had generally taken steps to reduce the amount they gambled or stopped altogether – either before they sought debt advice or around the same time. Addressing harmful gambling therefore seems to often be a prerequisite for a successful and sustainable debt resolution.

Addressing gambling issues often leads to more successful debt resolution

Want more information?

Email us to discuss our personal debt statistics and other debt research across the UK. policy@stepchange.org