The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has released a report that it claims will help measure the social cost of gambling-related harms.
On Tuesday, the UKGC released its Measuring Gambling-Related Harms: A Framework for Action, representing the combined input of the regulator, its independent advisors at the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RSGB) and the UK gaming industry’s self-funded GambleAware charity.
The UKGC has put consumer protection at the heart of its new regulatory approach, which aims to ensure a “fairer and safer” gambling environment. Neil McArthur, who was appointed CEO of the UKGC in April, says the new report will help the regulator and the industry “understand where best to target our resources” to achieve its consumer protection goals.
The report proposes to define gambling-related harm as “the adverse impacts from gambling on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and society.” These impacts on resources, relationships and health can be both short-lived and persistent.
Starting with a group of 50 different metrics of gambling-related harms, the report whittles that list down to a few major areas that directly contribute to a social cost: loss of employment; bankruptcy and/or debt; homelessness; crime; relationship issues; health problems and suicide.
The idea is to create models that quantify the social costs of these gambling-related harms, while also increasing their visibility. The report expects this narrow approach to expose gaps in its framework, while stimulating conversations and actions to address these gaps.
The report also acknowledges that many of the listed harms don’t easily lend themselves to a social cost conversion, but argues that this doesn’t make these harms any less important.
Industry cynics will likely claim that the concepts stated above are thoroughly squishy, offering little in the way of direct action, except (surprise!) calling for further research. And yes, other reports that specifically address how gambling harms affect young people and children will be published in late 2018 / early 2019.
To paraphrase a certain Nazarene prophet, problem gamblers, like the poor, will always be with us (barring the mass distribution of special nasal sprays or brain implants). By all means, take steps to better protect these individuals from their inability to control their actions, and continue to punish operators who abuse their positions of trust, but attempting to bubblewrap society from the actions of reckless individuals is a tall order.