Betting and gaming: the COVID-19 impact study (Stirling)

The University of Stirling will lead 10 major projects investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic after receiving almost £500,000 in funding from the Scottish Government. This project is led by Kate Hunt and Nathan Critchlow from University of Stirling and Heather Wardle from University of Glasgow. 


Around 2 million people experience harms from gambling, and many gamble on live events (including sports) and online. The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated unprecedented restrictions on people’s movements and interactions in public and private settings, and led to the cancellation of major sports events and social activities. These consequences of the COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ have altered the gambling landscape worldwide.

There is an urgent need to provide regulators, policy makers and treatment providers (e.g. World Health Organisation (WHO), Gambling Commission, All Party Parliamentary Group on online gambling harms) with high quality evidence on the changing patterns and context of gambling behaviours during COVID-19 and its aftermath. Insight is needed into: the actions undertaken by industry so regulators can consider immediate actions; understanding of new risk groups susceptible to gambling harms to develop effective prevention strategies; and understanding of the escalation and maintenance of harms to inform treatment and support provision.

Read the announcement from the University of Stirling


The team will address three major research questions across three integrated workpackages:

  • How has COVID-19 changed gambling practices, and the risk factors for and experience of gambling harms?
  • What is the effect of COVID-19 on gambling marketing?
  • How has COVID-19 changed high risk groups’ gambling experiences and practices?

They will focus on two groups at particular risk of adopting more risky, online gambling practices - young adults and sports bettors.


  • To conduct and analyse bespoke longitudinal data for two high risk groups: young adults and sports bettors
  • To examine trends in how and where gambling is advertised before/during/after Covid-19
  • To examine what messages were promoted about gambling during the pandemic
  • To examine, through the conduct and analysis of qualitative interviews, whether/how Covid-19 has changed potentially high risk groups’ gambling practices and experiences

Outputs and Impact

The team will build on their strong network of stakeholder partnerships to ensure timely dissemination and impact. In addition to academic papers, presentations and briefing notes, using social and traditional media to stimulate public debate on how to prevent gambling harms. Three integrated workpackages will inform interventions at the individual level (e.g. ways to adapt the ongoing work on a scalable group-based intervention for sports fans at risk of becoming problem gamblers, for other ‘at risk’ groups) and societal level (e.g. providing evidence for policy change and increased regulation of gambling).   

Further details


University of Stirling

University of Glasgow

University of Edinburgh

Key People

Kate Hunt – University of Stirling

Heather Wardle – University of Glasgow

Nathan Critchlow – University of Stirling

Gerda Reith – University of Glasgow

Richard Purves – University of Stirling

Martine Stead – University of Stirling

Fiona Dobbie – University of Edinburgh

Cindy Gray – University of Glasgow

Christopher Bunn – University of Glasgow

Craig Donnachie – University of Glasgow

Ashley Brown - University of Stirling


UKRI – Economic and Social Research Council