National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms
An effective prevention plan must seek to identify the right mix of interventions to be applied at both the population and individual level.
It must also deliver a clearer understanding of activities which are less effective, or counterproductive, and should be stopped.
'Prevention' of gambling harms will include a broad spectrum of measures at population level, such as regulatory restrictions on product, place and provider. This priority also includes reference to public health messaging and education programmes, and to specific work with individuals who are at risk of harm.
A future prevention plan will need to consider the range of possible approaches, which includes the following.
Universal measures for the benefit of the whole population
- regulatory requirements and, or as well as, restrictions on product, place and provider
- point of sale safer gambling message
- population-based safer gambling campaigns
- gambling management tools.
Selective measures for the benefit of at-risk groups
- targeted population for safer gambling campaigns
- workforce education programmes for relevant sectors and professionals
- education programmes for children, young people and other vulnerable groups.
Indicated measures for the benefit of at-risk individuals
- financial gambling blocks
- customer interaction by gambling staff
- brief interventions and online support by frontline staff in treatment, healthcare, debt advice and other settings.
Many prevention measures are already in place, whilst others are being developed. However, not enough is known collectively about which of these activities and programmes designed to prevent gambling harms should be extended or applied in order to achieve maximum impact.
Equally, there is evidence from other fields of addiction that prevention activities, if not done properly, can have little or no impact or carry the risk of unintended consequences.
At the universal level, gambling businesses are required to offer safer gambling information to customers and a range of preventative tools to limit time or money spent or to take time-outs from gambling.
Our understanding of how consumers use these tools and how to increase take-up is developing but still at an early stage.
For at-risk groups, campaigns and workforce education can be applied across a wide range of environments from healthcare and education professional settings to those in the third sector, such as debt advisers.
It is as yet unclear what the long-term effects on behaviour and attitudes of some education programmes such as those currently being delivered in schools will be, though care has been taken to align to the curriculum and set learning objectives.
Regulatory requirements apply to the identification of at-risk individuals by gambling businesses, but the Commission is driving further progress, and consideration is being given by financial, public health and third sectors on how to develop further means of identifying these individuals and applying measures to prevent harm.
Together, these and other activities designed to prevent gambling harms may have a positive impact, but there is further work to be achieved on co-ordination and evaluation.
At the moment, it is difficult to evidence how effective any or all of these are at reducing gambling harms. Therefore, in order to measure how effective these activities are, a key action will be to progress the framework for measuring harms under the Commission’s research programme.
We will also need to align this work to that being carried out by others.
This includes work:
- commenced by Public Health England and the National Institute of Health Research to conduct evidence reviews on gambling harms
- being undertaken in Wales, building on the Annual Report 2016 to 2017: Gambling with our health (opens in new tab) by the Chief Medical Officer for Wales
- progressed by the Scottish Public Health Network (ScotPHN) develop and implement a whole population approach to prevention and reduction of gambling harms, read more in the ScotPHN gambling update (PDF)
|Relationships||Partners, families and friends, community|
|Resources||Work and employment, money and debt, crime.|
|Health||Physical health, psychological distress, mental health.|
Reducing gambling harms
We must improve our understanding of the impact of prevention activities on reducing gambling harms. Current screening tools that measure the prevalence of people identified as problem gamblers provide a useful insight, and will continue to do so, but they fail to capture the full scale of harms that are caused by gambling.
Progressing the frameworks for measuring gambling harms, is therefore an urgent priority for the strategy. In addition to the adult framework which was published last year, a specific framework for children and young people who are likely to experience harms from gambling in different ways, will be published shortly.
A better understanding of gambling harms for adults and children and young people will help to target prevention and education initiatives where they will have most impact. This work will span the life of the strategy and beyond, and at each stage new information about these harms will be used to further refine approaches to prevention and education activities.
Gambling-related harms may affect young people now, as well as their future potential.
They include the following factors:
- financial - living standards of family and attitudes to and concerns about money
- development - education and social and emotional functioning
- relationships - such as behaviour, family, friends and the community
- health - physical and mental health and family emotional wellbeing.
Realising the aim
Last updated: 1 February 2021
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