New review finds little commitment to tackling gambling harms in legislation

The University of Glasgow conducted a groundbreaking review on the measures taken by governments worldwide to address the health and wellbeing issues stemming from gambling. The review, titled ‘Public health approaches to gambling: A global review of legislative trends,’ revealed that while gambling harms are being acknowledged in legislation, there is a lack of determination among policymakers to address these issues effectively.

Dr. Daria Ukhova, from the University of Glasgow’s School of Social and Political Sciences, emphasized that harmful gambling can have devastating impacts, including increased risk of suicide attempts and high levels of indebtedness. The review found that there is an overwhelming emphasis on controlling individual consumers rather than regulating the gambling industry itself. Dr. Ukhova stressed the importance of learning from other areas, such as tobacco and alcohol, where effective prevention required strict control of the industry and the environment in which these products are provided.

The University of Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Addiction, Control, and Governance collaborated on the review and recommended a global approach to evaluating gambling legislation. Dr. Virve Marionneau, from the University of Helsinki, highlighted the need for a comparative understanding of legislative and regulatory approaches to gambling harms, emphasizing that gambling causes severe harms globally, but policy responses have been scattered and unstandardized.

The study also underlined the importance of examples from other countries in guiding legislative change, which is a lengthy and complex process. Ultimately, the researchers called for governments to adopt systemic solutions to how gambling is provided and promoted in their respective countries, rather than paying lip service to making changes.

The research aims to inform the Lancet Public Health Commission on Gambling, which seeks to guide action to reduce gambling harms and protect people from these issues. In the UK, the research is supported by evidence linking gambling difficulties to heightened suicidality in young adults, as well as the impact of marketing on gambling behaviors.

The review was published in The Lancet Public Health, a leading public health journal, and aims to set a progressive agenda for addressing and preventing gambling harms globally.