A recent study published in The Lancet medical journal suggests that worldwide gambling legislation needs to change to better protect public health and wellbeing.
The research was led by teams from the University of Glasgow and the University of Helsinki, analyzing gambling legislative changes between 2018 and 2021, using a sample of 33 jurisdictions in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.
Providing a contextual background to the study, the researchers highlight that more than 80% of countries worldwide have legalized gambling in some form. Furthermore, 35% of countries changed their gambling regulations between 2018 and 2021.
Notably, European jurisdictions have introduced comparatively more restrictive regulations, with 43.8% introducing gambling advertising and marketing limitations during this period.
The study focused on legislative documents from 25 of the 33 sampled gambling jurisdictions, selecting only those with policies emphasizing health and consumer protection.
Criteria focused on the individual gambler’s behavior, such as self-exclusion and voluntary bet limits, measured against legislative criteria such as mandatory player identification.
It was found that although most gambling jurisdictions recognized harmful gambling as a health and well-being issue, they tended to attribute problem gambling primarily to the individual gambler rather than looking at broader societal impacts.
When looking at the causes of gambling harm, the design of gambling products emerges as a significant contributor to gambling harm in 40% of cases, and 28% of jurisdictions recognize gambling marketing.
The study also highlighted that 72% of the legislative texts that were analyzed used the term “Responsible Gambling”, which the researchers suggest emphasizes the individual rather than the provider. Self-exclusion (72%), information on treatment (64%), and voluntary limits (52%) were common measures brought in by legislators that focused on the individual’s responsibility.
The conclusion of the researchers challenges policymakers to move beyond focusing on the individual’s responsibility and addiction and instead acknowledge the interplay of structural factors that contribute to gambling-related harms.