Dr Steve Sharman

Dr Steve Sharman is a Research Fellow at the National Addiction Centre, King’s College London. His primary research focuses on using virtual reality to better understand in-game influences on gambling behaviour, the social and economic impacts of gambling related harm, and the importance of environment in the development and maintenance of gambling disorder. He is also interested in the early identification of gambling disorder, and the relationship between gambling and suicide. Steve completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology at University of East London, followed by a master’s degree at University College London in Cognitive Neuroscience. He won a scholarship to complete his PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, investigating cognition and decision-making in pathological and regular gamblers. He worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Lincoln, before being awarded an SSA Academic Fellowship and moving back to UEL to start his work using virtual reality. He then moved to King’s College London, where he has been successful in securing funding from a King’s Prize Fellowship, and then a UKRI Future Leader’s Fellowship. He is developing the Behavioural Addictions research group at KCL, and is a member of the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, the Executive Committee for the Academic Forum for the Study of Gambling, and is co-chair of the Current Advances in Gambling Research Conference committee.

Behavioural and demographic patterns and trends in treatment-seeking disordered gamblers: 2000-2015

Gambling is a popular national pastime in the UK. The Gambling Act of 2005 facilitated major expansions of land-based and online gambling, subsequently increasing both the range of gambling products available, and ways in which to access gambling. Recent Gambling Commission figures indicate that 48% of respondents had gambled in the past four weeks (a 3% increase on 2015), and that 0.7% of those that have gambled in the past 12 months identified as problem gamblers (compared to 0.5% in 2015), with a further 5.5% identified as at-risk gamblers.

However, little is known regarding the demographic and behavioural profiles of those seeking treatment for disordered gambling in the UK, and how these may have changed over time. The Gordon Moody Association (GMA) is the UK ‘s primary gambling-specific residential treatment facility, combining group and individual treatment programmes, in a community rehabilitation setting. Working with GMA, this research has sought to analyse the gambling behaviour and demographic profile of over 750 treatment seeking gamblers between 2000 and 2015.

Preliminary analysis reveals some interesting patterns, particularly in the forms of gambling disclosed as problematic. Individuals identifying Fixed Odds Betting Terminals as a problem form of gambling has been steadily increasing, whilst conversely, more traditional forms of gambling, (such as horse and dog racing) over time, are less commonly identified as a problem form. As expected, the number of treatment seeking gamblers engaging in online gambling is consistently increasing, year on year. Additionally, gamblers also commonly identify as smokers, have experience of a close family member gambling when growing up, and have experienced suicidal ideation. Approximately 75% of gamblers disclose committing a criminal act to fund gambling, a figure consistent across years.

This study provides an unprecedented and extensive insight in to both the demographic profiles and behavioural patterns of treatment seeking gamblers in the UK, over a 15 year time period, providing an important and overdue background to clinicians, policy-makers and gambling legislators.

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