Is Gambling a Public Health Issue?

Kosta Kostadinov | Published 25 Aug 2022, 9:07 a.m.

In recent months, one of the biggest and most talked about topics in the UK iGaming scene is about problem gambling. This includes the issues that can arise from it, as well as all the new rules and regulations that have been put in place to prevent them as much as possible. 

We made sure to keep you up to date with all these novelties as they were implemented. Now, the debate is whether gambling should be considered a public health issue.

Is Gambling a public health issue?

Gambling has become a very sensitive subject, especially now with the rise of problem gambling in the online sphere. However, because of this, the question arises of whether gambling should be deemed a public health issue.

According to Public Health England, the executive agency that was dissolved back in 2021, the answer to this question should be yes. PHE aimed to release several reports that would prove this and they could be the starting point for anti-gambling policies.

PHE’s conclusion on this subject was that ‘the evidence suggests that harmful gambling should be considered a public health issue because it is associated with harms to individuals, their families, close associates and wider society.’

However, as it turned out, the reports were lacking significant evidence for this as it was ‘not possible to identify any risk factors for harmful gambling in adults because there was no high-quality systematic review of longitudinal studies.’

Taking into consideration the basic definition of a public health issue, it would not make sense to place gambling in this category and there are several reasons for it. Losing a lot of money is certainly problematic, but gambling is neither an environmental hazard nor an infectious disease.

According to others though, it would be unwise and frankly pointless to consider everything that can potentially cause harm to an individual a public health issue. By that logic, everything will fall in this category and at the end of the day, the very term ‘public health’ will eventually lose its meaning.

What can be done about problem gambling?

Problem gambling is a serious issue and everyone agrees with that, but the question of how to minimise it or even prevent it still remains. Even those psychologists who specialise in this field haven’t come to a consensus regarding the best course of action. So far, the appropriate therapy is the way to go and many charitable organisations have been providing it.

The proposal given by Public Health England was to implement policies that were already in place for other public-health problems but to adapt them for the gambling issues at hand. This was proposed after a survey that included a small number of participants. According to some, this type of research is not even based on science and should not even be considered.

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