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Minimising gambling-related harm

We encourage operators to consider how they can gather data both before and after the implementation of any measure so that they can demonstrate the impact of control measures.

Considerations for operators

Research has shown that individuals can frequently gamble more money than they intended during gambling sessions. This leads to them making impulsive decisions that override their initial intentions to allocate a set amount of money to gamble with. Easy access to additional funds in gambling premises can therefore be a risk factor for problem gambling. Key issues in product-based harm minimisation (opens in a new tab) by Parke A, Parke J and Blaszczynski, A, was published in December 2016, and is a summary of research evidence.

Research also shows that non-cash payment methods in gambling can lead to consumers over-spending, as such methods require less thinking about the actual cost and affordability implications of a transaction compared to cash payments.

It is for operators to consider how player protection and empowerment can be most effectively delivered in practice.

They are best placed to assess which measures are:

  • most effective in mitigating the risk of customers spending more on gambling than they might be able to afford
  • which are most effective in enabling customers to retain control over their own gambling spend. Operators may need to take account of specific risks such as the layout of their premises or vulnerabilities for particular customers.

As part of their assessments on how they can best mitigate harm, operators must consider how they can facilitate the following. While there is no evidence to suggest what the ideal duration of a break should be, wherever possible the customer should at least be required to cease gambling at, and physically leave, the machine, terminal or table at which they are situated. This provides some time away from the gambling facilities before they are able to access and use new funds. This is consistent with the mandatory conditions attached to all premises licences that any ATM is located in a place that requires customers to cease gambling and leave the gambling product in order to use it.

In any circumstance where customers might be able to access new gambling funds with only a limited or no physical break from the gambling product (for example, where customers might be able to use a debit card to replenish an app-based digital gambling ‘wallet’), the operator must ensure that customers are otherwise provided a break from or an interruption in gambling before those funds can be used.

Customers should be required to take a break from gambling before they access and use new funds to continue gambling

The purpose of the break or interruption in play is to reduce the risk of harm to players that could arise from them losing track of the time and money they have spent gambling. By interrupting their state of dissociation, a break in play can give customers an opportunity to evaluate their own gambling behaviours, and could therefore facilitate better control (see Operator-based approaches to harm minimisation in gambling (opens in a new tab), by Parke A, Parke J, Blaszczynski, A and Rigbye J, published by Gamble Aware in 2014). A break or interruption in play could therefore involve, for example, slowing the transactional process and providing delays before new funds are made available to the player for use; perhaps combined with informative messaging, so as to support the player’s control and awareness of their gambling spend.

Operators should use these new opportunities to support innovation in the protection and empowerment of consumers. For example, cashless payment technology may assist operators in tracking their customers’ play, allowing them to collect better data on their customers’ gambling behaviour and therefore helping to inform an assessment of those who may be at risk of gambling-related harm.

The new technologies may also assist in the provision of tailored responsible gambling information to customers, including transactional information on the sums of money they have spent or withdrawn; or the development of player-led controls to enable better self-management of the customer’s gambling (for example, allowing customers to set their own spend or withdrawal limits).

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