Gambling disorder in the UK: key research priorities and the urgent need for independent research funding

Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Roxanne W. Hook, Jon E. Grant, Konstantinos Ioannidis, Ornella Corazza, Naomi A. Fineberg, Bryan F. Singer, Amanda Roberts, Richard Bethlehem, Simon Dymond, Rafa Romero-Garcia, Trevor W. Robbins, Samuele Cortese, Shane A. Thomas, Barbara J. Sahakian, Nicki A. Dowling, Samuel R. Chamberlain*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Gambling in the modern era is pervasive owing to the variety of gambling opportunities available, including those that use technology (eg, online applications on smartphones). Although many people gamble recreationally without undue negative effects, a sizeable subset of individuals develop disordered gambling, which is associated with marked functional impairment including other mental health problems, relationship problems, bankruptcy, suicidality, and criminality. The National UK Research Network for Behavioural Addictions (NUK-BA) was established to promote understanding of, research into, and treatments for behavioural addictions including gambling disorder, which is the only formally recognised behavioural addiction. In this Health Policy paper, we outline the status of research and treatment for disordered gambling in the UK (including funding issues) and key research that should be conducted to establish the magnitude of the problem, vulnerability and resilience factors, the underlying neurobiology, long-term consequences, and treatment opportunities. In particular, we emphasise the need to: (1) conduct independent longitudinal research into the prevalence of disordered gambling (including gambling disorder and at-risk gambling), and gambling harms, including in vulnerable and minoritised groups; (2) select and refine the most suitable pragmatic measurement tools; (3) identify predictors (eg, vulnerability and resilience markers) of disordered gambling in people who gamble recreationally, including in vulnerable and minoritised groups; (4) conduct randomised controlled trials on psychological interventions and pharmacotherapy for gambling disorder; (5) improve understanding of the neurobiological basis of gambling disorder, including impulsivity and compulsivity, genetics, and biomarkers; and (6) develop clinical guidelines based on the best contemporary research evidence to guide effective clinical interventions. We also highlight the need to consider what can be learnt from approaches towards mitigating gambling-related harm in other countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-329
Number of pages9
JournalThe Lancet Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was conducted through the National UK Network for Behavioural Addictions (NUK-BA) led by SRC and HB. This publication is based upon work from European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action CA16207 “European Network for Problematic Usage of the Internet”, supported by COST.

Funding Information:
HB is the director of the National Problem Gambling clinic and the national centre for gaming disorders. These clinics have received funding from NHS England, CNWL NHS Trust, and GambleAware. HB is the President of the Psychiatry Section at the Royal Society of Medicine and sits on several national and international Boards. HB has been on research teams funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the Wolfson Family Trust. SRC's role in this paper was funded by a Clinical Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust (reference 110049/Z/15/Z & 110049/Z/15/A). SRC consults for Promentis on work unrelated to the content of this paper. SRC also receives stipends from Elsevier for editorial work at Comprehensive Psychiatry, and at Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. JEG has received research grants from Biohaven, Promentis, and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals. JEG receives yearly compensation from Springer Publishing for acting as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Gambling Studies and has received royalties from Oxford University Press, American Psychiatric Publishing, Norton Press, and McGraw Hill. SC declares honoraria and reimbursement for travel and accommodation expenses for lectures from the following non-profit associations: Association for Child and Adolescent Central Health, Canadian ADHD Alliance Resource, British Association of Pharmacology, and Healthcare Convention for educational activity on ADHD. OC has received royalties from Routledge, Springer, and Elsevier for editorial duties and advises the UK Parliament and the United Nations on addiction-related matters. OC held various research grants from the European Union, World Anti-Doping Agency, and University of Hertfordshire. SAT has received royalties from Elsevier and research grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council, and the Victorian and Australian Governments. SD has received funding from GambleAware and is the Director of the Gambling Research, Education and Treatment Network Wales, which is funded by the Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales. BJS consults for Cambridge Cognition, Greenfield Bioventures, and Cassava Sciences. BJS's research is funded by Eton College and the Wallitt Foundation, and is conducted within the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) MedTech and in-vitro diagnostic Co-operative, and the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre Mental Health Theme. In the past 3 years NAF has held research or networking grants from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP), UK NIHR, EU H2020 (COST), Medical Research Council, and University of Hertfordshire. In the past 3 years NAF has accepted travel and hospitality expenses from the British Association for Pharmacology, ECNP, Royal College of Psychiatrists, CINP, International Forum of Mood and Anxiety Disorders, World Psychiatric Association, Indian Association for Biological Psychiatry, and Sun. In the past 3 years NAF has received payment from Taylor and Francis and Elsevier for editorial duties and has accepted paid speaking engagements sponsored by Abbott and Sun. Previously, NAF has accepted paid speaking engagements in symposia supported by various pharmaceutical companies and has recruited patients for various pharmaceutical industry-sponsored studies in the field of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) treatment. NAF leads an NHS treatment service for OCD and holds Board membership for various registered charities linked to OCD. NAF gives expert advice on psychopharmacology to the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. NAD reports research funding from multiple sources, including government departments (through hypothecated taxes from gambling revenue), and is the recipient of a Deakin University Faculty of Health Mid-Career Fellowship. TWR consults for Cambridge Cognition, Takeda, Greenfield Bioventures, Cassava, Shionogi, Heptares, Arcadia. TWR reports grants from GlaxoSmithKline, Shionogi Royalties, and Cambridge Cognition; and Editorial Honoraria from Springer Nature and Elsevier. The rest of the authors declared no competing interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

Other keywords

  • Behavior, Addictive
  • Gambling/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Research
  • United Kingdom/epidemiology


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