Aiding and A-betting
What is the gambling industry’s role in the treatment of problem gambling?
Posted Apr 06, 2014
There have been some recent soundings about land-based casinos directly helping problem gamblers through the use of on site treatment specialists (i.e., problem gamblers having access to treatment in the gambling environment itself). Although this sounds like a very socially responsible move on the part of the operators, it is my view is that it is not the gaming industry’s responsibility to treat gamblers but it is their responsibility to provide referral for problem gamblers to specialist third party helping agencies (e.g., problem gambling helplines, counselling services, etc.). It is thought that the number of problem gamblers who actively seek treatment is only a small percentage of the overall number of problem gamblers. This is because problem gamblers may feel embarrassed and/or stigmatized via face-to-face treatment interventions. This suggests that one of the ways forward may be for the industry to refer their problem clients towards online (rather than offline) help.
An interesting observation was the extent to which GamAid was meeting a need not met by other UK gambling help services. This was examined by looking at the profiles of those clients using GamAid in comparison with the most similar service currently on offer, that being the UK GamCare telephone help line. The data recorded by GamAid advisors during the evaluation period found that 413 distinct clients contacted an advisor. Unsurprisingly (given the medium of the study), online gambling was the single most popular location for clients to gamble with 31% of males and 19% of females reporting that they gambled this way. By comparison, the GamCare helpline (the UK's national gambling telephone helpline) found that only 12% of their male and 7% of their female callers gambled online. Therefore, it could be argued that the GamAid service is the preferred modality for seeking support for online gamblers. This is perhaps not surprising given that online gamblers are likely to have a greater degree of overall competence in using, familiarity with, and access to Internet facilities. Problem gamblers may therefore be more likely to seek help using the media that they are most comfortable in.
• There exists a very large array of prevention initiatives.
• Much is still unknown about the effectiveness of many individual initiatives.
• The most commonly implemented measures tend to be among the less effective measures (e.g., casino self-exclusion, awareness/information campaigns).
• There is almost nothing that is not helpful to some extent and that there is almost nothing that, by itself, has high potential to prevent harm.
• Primary prevention initiatives are almost always more effective than tertiary prevention measures.
• External controls (i.e., policy) tend to be just as useful as internal knowledge (e.g., education).
• Effective prevention in most fields actually requires co-ordinated, extensive, and enduring efforts between effective educational initiatives and effective policy initiatives.
• Prevention efforts have to be sustained and enduring, because behavioural change takes a long time.
It would therefore appear that there are many factors that could be incorporated within a gaming company’s framework of social responsibility and that while the industry should be proactive in the prevention of problem gambling, the treatment of problem gambling should be done by those outside of the gaming industry and that one of the ways forward may be online rather than offline help.
References and further reading
Gainsbury, S.M. & Blaszczynski, A. (2011). 'A systematic review of Internet-based therapy for the treatment of addictions', Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 490-498.
Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Online therapy for addictive behaviors. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 8, 555-561.
Griffiths, M.D. & Cooper, G. (2003). Online therapy: Implications for problem gamblers and clinicians. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 13, 113-135.
Williams, R.J., Simpson, R.I. & West, B.L. (2007). Prevention of problem gambling. In G. Smith, D. Hodgins & R. Williams (Eds.), Research and Measurement Issues in Gambling Studies (pp.399-435). New York: Elsevier.
Wood, R.T.A. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Online guidance, advice, and support for problem gamblers and concerned relatives and friends: An evaluation of the GamAid pilot service. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 35, 373-389.