Dubious evidence for the costs of problem gambling

Kosta Kostadinov | Published 13 Jul 2022, 9:23 a.m.

The government’s White Paper on gambling reform has been announced and talked about for a long time. A lot of information has been released to the public and even more was only speculations, which might have resulted in confusion and uncertainty. 

We do our best to regularly update and inform you about all the latest revelations and news on the topic. Now that its publication is approaching, a lot of the information that played a big role in the process is deemed suspicious and even untrustworthy. 

The report published by Public Health England

The biggest issue in the industry right now is the case of problem gambling, which has resulted in numerous new rules and regulations so far, especially in regard to online gambling. The highly-anticipated White Paper is expected to more strictly regulate the online sphere and a report by Public Health England played a big role in the debate.

Said report was published in September of last year and it focused on the annual costs of problem gambling, which were £1.27bn. According to the report, these costs were estimated by taking into account different harms, such as depression, alcoholism, drug use, homelessness, and even unemployment rates.

The suspicion arises from the fact that the report doesn’t provide any concrete information on how these costs were calculated and measured. Scott Benton, MP to Sajin Javid, has stated that the full calculations of what was indicated in the report were not presented.

According to Chris Phillip, who was the minister at the time, “While the review acknowledged that further research is needed to determine costs attributable directly to gambling-related harm, it is the most comprehensive review of the evidence and has been carefully considered as an important input to our Review of the Gambling Act 2005.”

The Department of Health also released a statement, in which they said that the published report does include the methodology used to estimate and calculate the costs of the abovementioned harms. This has led people to say that the methodology is not enough, without the actual evidence.

The Department of Health also refused to release the evidence, saying that it would take too much time and energy to format and adapt their calculations for external use.

Responsible gambling is tackled in the USA

The concept of responsible and safe gambling was also a big topic during the Player Protection Symposium at the 2022 SBC Summit North America. One of the speakers was Bill Pascrell III, who when talking about online casinos stated that they “must understand and appreciate the only way to continue a sustainable gaming industry is to not look at a one 800 number as checking a box on a consumer-facing page.”

According to Jan Jones Blackhurst, another speaker at the symposium, “We need to have programs and treatments that are based on science and there are millions of dollars that are being spent in studying the science of disordered gambling and how to treat it responsibly”.

It was also stated that statistically, the Native American population is the most susceptible to gambling-related harm and a great emphasis should be placed on how these issues are tackled. 

Overall, the bottom line is that the industry can definitely make a bigger impact in regard to responsible gambling. It should also become part of the culture, backed up by science and more than just a number.

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