Let’s talk about Safer Gambling Week

Contact Us

15th October 2022

This year’s Safer Gambling Week presents us with the same old messages designed to pass responsibility onto sports fans for gambling behaviour and any associated harms. But if we want to address gambling harms, we need to acknowledge the powerful influence of commercial actors.

The gambling industry’s safer gambling narrative presents gambling-related harms as an issue associated with personal responsibility – in other words, the choices of individuals rather than the actions of big business. Common messages from the gambling industry include “stop when the fun stops”, “gamble responsibly”, “know your limits”, “tap out, take a moment”, “avoid bet regret”, “know when to stop”, and “only bet what you can afford to lose”.

The safer gambling discourse frames sports betting as a ‘fun’ and harmless leisure activity and sports bettors as individuals who are rational decision makers who are able to make informed choices based on the information provided.

Whilst it would be ill-advised to remove agency from individuals experiencing gambling harms, these types of personal responsibility narratives are overly simplistic and ignore the power differentials between individuals who gamble and the gambling industry [1].

The personal responsibility narrative implies that gambling products themselves are not the issue, but rather the individuals who use them. This biased focus not only places emphasis on individuals to self-regulate their behaviour, but it also attaches stigma to individuals who may experience harms if they “fail” to “gamble responsibly.” Even the term “problem gambler” – which is largely derided by the lived experience community – implies that the “gambler” has a “problem” rather than there being a “problem” with broader social, political, and commercial determinants such as the gambling industry’s ability to sponsor sport and promote sports betting products to fans.

This creates negative stereotypes associated with individuals experiencing gambling harms – i.e., the harm experienced is associated with some sort of moral failure and they lack resilience. It also distracts from the role of the gambling industry in saturating sport with gambling sponsorship and advertising and normalising gambling behaviour. We need to be kinder and more empathetic to individuals who are experiencing harms and recognise the power of marketing and inducements in shaping consumer behaviour.

A recent qualitative analysis of Australian gamblers’ perceptions of gambling harms suggests that the public may have internalised responsibility for harmful gambling [2]. If this is reflected in the UK population, the responsible gambling narrative may in fact exacerbate gambling harms due to the shame and stigma individuals experience which can be a significant barrier in accessing support.

To tackle the personal responsibility narrative and remove stigma associated with gambling harms, we need to recognise how sports fans are being nudged and cajoled into gambling more frequently by the gambling industry and that the practices of the gambling industry may disproportionately impact vulnerable individuals.

Perhaps it is time for the gambling industry to “take time to think” about the personal responsibility narrative.

  1. Hodgins (2020). Personal choice is a nuanced concept – Lesson learned from the gambling field: https://akjournals.com/view/journals/2006/9/4/article-p876.xml
  2. Marko, et al. (2022). Gamblers’ perceptions of responsibility for gambling harm: a critical inquiry: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-022-13109-9
addressarrow-downarrow-left-greyarrow-leftarrow-right-greyarrow-rightbulleted-listcloseillustration logo-footer mailsocial_facebooksocial_googleplussocial_instagramsocial_linkedin_altsocial_linkedin_altsocial-linkedin2social-mailsocial_pinterestlogo-twitter-glyph-32social_youtube