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Gambling-related harm among recent migrant communities in the UK: Responses to a 21st century urban phenomenon

About this study

England has one of the most liberal gambling policy regimes in the world and there is concern that those migrating to the UK from jurisdictions with more restricted gambling cultures may be at heightened risk of harm. New migrants are one of a number of such groups who might be disproportionately affected by gambling and may be particularly at risk of harm if coming from countries with stricter gambling restrictions. Problem gambling is linked to debt; relationship problems; mental health issues; health problems; poor performance at work/study; involvement in crime; domestic violence; housing instability and homelessness. We are interested in the type of support that could or may need to be made available to new migrants. Gambling may appeal to migrants because it may be considered a relatively easy way to make money, helps to relieve stress, and may provide a temporary escape from the difficulties associated with relocation. To date there is no UK research examining this subject and little research internationally.

This project will investigate migrant gambling in the urban settings of Leeds and London - places where there are higher than average migrant communities, and it aims to:

  • Identify urban social processes which may influence gambling behaviours among new migrant communities and to better theorise about the potential impact of gambling for these communities;
  • Engage with community stakeholders to explore their awareness of gambling-related harm, the impact of gambling related harm on their community and explore potential solutions and risk reduction mechanisms.


March 2018 – August 2018

Research team

Heather Wardle (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine - LSHTM), Jill Manthorpe (SCWRU), Stephanie Bramley (SCWRU), Caroline Norrie (SCWRU)


The project is funded by the KCL/LSHTM Interdisciplinary Fund.


Our package of work includes:

  1. A scoping review of literature to identify common themes and theories around urban social processes in relation to gambling behaviour
  2. Secondary analysis of the Health Surveys for England 2012 and 2015 to explore gambling behaviours among those of non-British national identity
  3. Conducting two stakeholder workshops with representatives from migrant community groups to explore their understanding of gambling-related harm and its attractions (one in London; one in Leeds)
  4. Developing an online consultation tool to gain further insight from other interested stakeholder groups unable to attend the workshops
  5. Organising two public engagement seminars to disseminate the project’s findings


The scoping review found international evidence in support of a “harm paradox” where fewer migrants participate in gambling, but those who do are more likely to be affected by harms. The existence of “harm paradox” was explored within UK data obtained from the 2012 and 2015 Health Survey for England and provided evidence to suggest that individuals from non-white and non-British backgrounds were less likely to gamble but significantly more likely to be identified as problem gamblers. Therefore this is the first UK study that provides statistical evidence to support the assertion that a “harm paradox” exists for migrant gamblers living in the UK. However, the reasons for the “harm paradox” are currently unclear and further research is needed to understand this phenomenon. The the focus groups with community stakeholders highlighted that culturally competent gambling support services are needed in order to meet the needs of migrant communities.


This project has assembled the evidence base in relation to migrant gambling, provided new evidence to support the existence of a “harm paradox” for migrant gambling and highlighted the potential barriers facing migrants who may wish to engage in help seeking behaviour.



Bramley, S., Norrie, C., Wardle, H., Manthorpe, J. and Lipman, V. (2020) Gambling-related harm among recent migrant communities in the UK: Responses to a 21st century urban Phenomenon, NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King’s College London and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine


Bramley, S., Norrie, C., & Manthorpe, J. (2020) 'Exploring the support for UK migrants experiencing gambling-related harm: insights from two focus groups', Public Health.

Wardle, H., Bramley, S., Norrie, C., and Manthorpe, J. (2019) 'What do we know about gambling-related harm affecting migrants and migrant communities? A rapid review', Addictive Behaviors. 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.01.017


Bramley, S. & Norrie, C. (2018) ‘Gambling-related harm among recent migrant communities in the UK: responses to a 21st century urban phenomenon’, Seminar at King’s College London, 27 November.

15 November 2018 Caroline Norrie took part in an interview on the Voice of Islam radio station breakfast show following the government's announcement that they would introduce the reduction of stakes on fixed odds betting machines (FOBTs) from £100 every 20 seconds, to £2 in April 2019, rather than delaying this for six months.

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