Betting Your Life On It
10 ways to minimize and prevent problem gambling.
Posted Dec 11, 2018
[Please note: The following article was written with Dr. Michael Auer]
Problem gambling has become a major issue in many countries worldwide. In this short article, we provide ten ways to help prevent problem gambling.
* Raise the minimum age of all forms of commercial gambling to 18 years – Research has consistently shown that the younger a person starts to gamble, the more likely they are to develop gambling problems. Stopping problem gambling in adolescence is a key step in preventing problem gambling in the first place. Any venue or website that hosts gambling games should have effective age verification procedures.
* Restrict the most harmful types of gambling – Most research shows that gambling activities which can be gambled on continuously such as slot machines tend to be far more problematic than discontinuous games such as weekly lotteries. More harmful forms of gambling should be restricted to dedicated gambling venues rather than housed in non-dedicated gambling premises (such as supermarkets, cafes, and restaurants).
* Educate players to pre-commit when engaging in the most harmful types of gambling – Ideally, the most harmful forms of gambling should have mandatory limit-setting options for players to set their own voluntary time and money limits when playing the games. Gambling operators can also use mandatory loss limits to keep gambling expenditure to a minimum.
* Take responsibility for where problem gambling lies – While all individuals are ultimately responsible for their own gambling behavior, other stakeholders – including the gambling industry – have control over the structural and situational characteristics of gambling products. Government policymakers and legislators have a responsibility to ensure that gambling products are tightly regulated and to ensure that any given jurisdiction has the infrastructure to keep gambling problems to a minimum. Gambling operators are responsible for all advertising and marketing and need to ensure that the content is socially responsible and promotes responsible gambling. Within gambling venues, all practices and procedures should be socially responsible (such as not giving free alcohol while gambling, and no ATM machines on the gaming floor).
* Put social responsibility at the heart of gambling operating practice – The most socially responsible gambling operators always puts player protection and harm minimization at the heart of their business. They need to provide all information about their products so that individuals can make an informed choice about whether to gamble in the first place. They should advertise their products responsibly and provide their clientele with tools to aid responsible gambling and provide help and guidance for those who think they are developing a gambling problem or have one.
* Raise awareness about gambling among health practitioners and the general public – Problem gambling may be perceived as a somewhat ‘grey’ area in the field of health. However, there is an urgent need to enhance awareness about gambling-related problems within the general public and the medical and health professions.
* Identify at-risk players – Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are common approaches applied in behavioral analysis across many industries. Online gambling and personalized land-based gambling operators can detect harmful behavioral patterns such as chasing losses or binge gambling. Such players can be excluded from direct marketing, specific types of games, and/or contacted to prevent the development of problem gambling.
Use personalized feedback – Research across many areas such as sports, health behavior, as well as gambling has shown that personalized feedback can effectively change behavior. Using behavioral data available in online gambling and personalized land-based venues, gamblers can be informed in real-time about behavioral changes in order to make them more aware and use pre-commitment tools such as limit-setting and/or self-exclusion.
* Set up both general and targeted gambling prevention initiatives – The goals of gambling intervention are to (i) prevent gambling-related problems, (ii) promote informed, balanced attitudes, and choices, and (iii) protect vulnerable groups. The guiding principles for action on gambling are therefore prevention, health promotion, harm reduction, and personal and social responsibility. This includes:
- General awareness raising (e.g. public education campaigns through advertisements on television, radio, newspapers).
- Targeted prevention (e.g. education programs and campaigns for particularly vulnerable populations such as senior citizens, adolescents, ethnic minorities).
- Awareness raising within gambling establishments (e.g. brochures and leaflets describing problem gambling, indicative warning signs, where help for problems can be sought such as problem gambling helplines, referral service, telephone counseling web-based chatrooms for problem gamblers, and outpatient treatment).
- Training materials (e.g. training videos about problem gambling shown in schools, job centers).
* Educate and training those working in the gambling industry about problem gambling – All gaming personnel in any gambling establishments from shop retailers to croupiers should receive ongoing training regarding responsible gambling and problem gambling.
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