Data Key To Minimising Harm, Say Academics

October 18, 2022
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Operators in EU member states and the UK can reduce gambling harms by sharing data on consumers, according to academic experts.

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Operators in EU member states and the UK can reduce gambling harms by sharing data on consumers, according to academic experts.

“Right now we are living in the golden age of data. It can help regulators, treatment, and more,” Dr. Mark Griffiths, professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University, said during a European Safer Gambling Week webinar on "minimising gambling-related harm".

“We must harness technology to help gamblers develop new tools and help form debates on how to address problem gambling,” Griffiths said, adding that consumer tracking data means policymakers should no longer have to rely on “unreliable” survey response data.

Problem gambling prevalence and gambling engagement reporting not only often rely on this unreliable data, according to the academics, but they also deploy a “huge variation” of methodologies and other practices across EU member states and the UK. This leads to large variations in reported problem gambling rates.

“There is not even an exhaustive definition produced yet of gambling harm”, according to research undertaken by Dr Margaret Carran, an associate professor and associate dean at City, University of London.

Carran said this creates a major hurdle for regulators and policymakers looking to effectively minimise harm.

“How can regulations help to prevent people from requiring treatment without consistency in data? It is very difficult to justify or criticize any of the current regulations. Consistency of measuring problem gambling rates across long time periods of time is key to getting a better understanding,” Carran said.

An inability to track and flag problem gambling behaviour, added to the existing stigma around it, means a huge portion of the population is not seeking any help, according to Professor Sally Gainsbury, the University of Sydney’s gambling treatment and research clinic director.

“We must think more about educating people about gambling from a safety point of view, like how we changed our approach to wearing a seatbelt,” Gainsbury said.

From a clinician's perspective, Gainsbury believes understanding harm better also requires the industry to encourage consumers to self-identify when exhibiting problem gambling behaviour, advocating for more nudges and less friction, adding that these tools should not put consumers off by feeling constraining.

“We need to shift the notion of what it means to try and reduce those harms as opposed to framing that when you have a problem you need to engage with XY and Z,” Gainsbury said.

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