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A public health approach to gambling harm

Policy Recommendations to meaningfully reduce and prevent gambling harm written by a diverse group of individuals who have experienced gambling harm

"The gambling-related burden of harm appears to be of similar magnitude to harm attributed to major depressive disorder and alcohol misuse and dependence. It is substantially higher than harm attributed to drug dependence disorder. There is an urgent need to place gambling on national and international public health agendas and strengthen evidence-based policy and prevention strategies, as well as greatly extend early intervention and treatment provision."
World Health Organization, 2017

About Gambling Explained

Inspired by 'Tobacco Explained' (WHO, 2004), 'Gambling Explained' culminates understanding of scientific evidence and details what the gambling industry and other stakeholders have said. 'Gambling Explained' was written entirely altruistically for the Gambling Act Review by researchers who have a combined lived experience of affected other harms of over 25 years.


"Harms in affected others challenge the industry in two ways. First, measures to raise awareness and prevent gambling harms in individuals who do not gamble will reduce the appeal of gambling and contribute to its social unacceptability. Second, the 'freedom to gamble' argument is confounded if individuals who do not gamble are harmed."

Gambling Explained, 2021

Understanding the significance of gambling harm

Prevalence alone does not help understanding of the significance of the issues at hand

  • Quantify the significance of gambling harm in health impacts (health loss in quality of life and mortality) and economic costs of impact to inform national policies

    • Include consideration for low-risk and moderate-risk harm as harms are on a continuum

    • Include consideration for affected other harm populations where approximately half of all gambling harm is expected to be suffered

  • Recognise that gambling increasingly takes place via loot-boxes, spread betting, and crypto-currency trading; and that such newer forms of gambling are likely to disproportionately affect young people and be involved with money laundering crime

Preventing gambling harm and protecting vulnerable populations from gambling harm

Gambling harm is one of the largest modifiable risk factors for health and disease; harm can be prevented

  • Install a seamless and robust central and independent member mechanism, that functions across the gambling industry to address three poorly regulated issues, such that gambling should be allowed to:

    • 1) appropriately aged members,

    • 2) members spending amounts that are affordable and not showing signs of money laundering, and

    • 3) members that are not self-excluded

  • Comprehensively ban gambling advertising and inducements because partial bans are well-known to be ineffective

  • Consider public health and recognise that the proliferation of gambling premises exacerbate issues around crime, inequality, and deprivation when licensing betting premises

  • Consider the role of game design in contributing towards gambling harm and appeal to children and young people

  • Provide prevention and treatment targetted to the needs of disproportionately affected populations

  • Provide meaningful gambling harm education to children and young people as part of PSHE curriculums

    • alongside other addiction teachings in primary education (gambling is currently omitted)

    • substantially in secondary education (gambling is currently minimally included for under internet safety and harms)

Mitigating and treating gambling harm

Relative to other addictions, only a small fraction of those suffering gambling harm currently access treatment

  • Provide gambling harm education, training, and guidelines for healthcare professionals

  • Motivate & support primary care to provide gambling harm awareness, screening, and referrals into treatment services

  • Introduce meaningful redress mechanisms to allow the return of funds to victims of crimes

  • Safeguard children who are susceptible to harm from a parents gambling in line with efforts for alcohol and drug use

  • Criminal justice systems should consider the roles and responsibilities of industry where gambling has led to crimes

A public health approach to gambling harm - PDF Version

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