A mapping review of research on gambling harm in three regulatory environments [open access article]

Background: Harmful gambling is a complex issue with diverse antecedents and resulting harms that have been studied from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Although previous bibliometric reviews of gambling studies have found a dominance of judgement and decision-making research, no bibliometric review has examined the concept of “harm” in the gambling literature, and little work has quantitatively assessed how gambling research priorities differ between countries.

Methods: Guided by the Conceptual Framework of Harmful Gambling (CFHG), an internationally relevant framework of antecedents to harmful gambling, we conducted a bibliometric analysis focusing on research outputs from three countries with different gambling regulatory environments: Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Using a Web of Science database search, 1424 articles published from 2008 to 2017 were retrieved that could be mapped to the eight CFHG factors. A subsample of articles (n = 171) containing the word “harm” in the title, abstract, or keywords was then drawn. Descriptive statistics were used to examine differences between countries and trends over time with regard to CFHG factor and harm focus

Results: Psychological and biological factors dominate gambling research in Canada whereas resources and treatment have received more attention in New Zealand. A greater percentage of Australia and New Zealand publications address the gambling environment and exposure to gambling than in Canada. The subset of articles focused on harm showed a stronger harms focus among New Zealand and Australian researchers compared to Canadian-authored publications.

Conclusions: The findings provide preliminary bibliometric evidence that gambling research foci may be shaped by jurisdictional regulation of gambling. Countries with privately operated gambling focused on harm factors that are the operators’ responsibility, whereas jurisdictions with a public health model focused on treatment and harm reduction resources. In the absence of a legislated requirement for public health or harm minimisation focus, researchers in jurisdictions with government-operated gambling tend to focus research on factors that are the individual’s responsibility and less on the harms they experience. Given increased international attention to gambling-related harm, regulatory and research environments could promote and support more diverse research in this area. Access full article

Reference: Baxter, D.G., Hilbrecht, M., Wheaton, C.T.J. (2019). A mapping review of research on gambling harm in three regulatory environments. Harm Reduction Journal, 16(12). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-018-0265-3

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Young people’s awareness of the timing and placement of gambling advertising on traditional and social media platforms: a study of 11–16-year-olds in Australia (open access article)

Thomas, S. L., Bestman, A., Pitt, H., Cassidy, R., McCarthy, S., Nyemcsok, C., Cowlishaw, S., & Daube, M. (2018). Harm Reduction Journal, 15(51). doi:10.1186/s12954-018-0254-6

Abstract: Research has demonstrated that the promotion of gambling, particularly within sport, may have a significant impact on positively shaping young people’s attitudes towards gambling. While some governments have implemented restrictions to limit young people’s exposure to gambling advertising, few studies have investigated where young people recall seeing gambling advertising, and whether they perceive that advertising restrictions have gone far enough in reducing exposure to these promotions.. Access full article

Understanding the business versus care paradox in gambling venues: a qualitative study of the perspectives from gamblers, venue staff and counsellors [open access article]

Riley, B., Orlowski, S., Smith, D., Baigent, M., Battersby, M., & Lawn, S. (2018). Harm Reduction Journal 15(49). doi https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-018-0256-4

Background: In recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on gambling venues to identify potential problem gamblers, respond appropriately and refer to treatment. In seeking the perspectives of problem gamblers, venue staff and treatment providers, this qualitative study investigates how problem gamblers experience being identified and referred for treatment by venue staff.

Results: ‘Role conflict’ was identified as a considerable source of stress for venue staff who described conflicting priorities in responding to problem gamblers whilst maintaining employer profit margins. Problem gamblers described offers of help from venue staff as hypocritical and disingenuous. Venue staff also described reluctance to make moral judgements through the identification of and engagement with problem gamblers, and gamblers described resentment in being singled out and targeted as a problem gambler. Being approached and offered referral to a counselling service was a rare occurrence among problem gamblers. This corresponded with reports by gambling counsellors.

Conclusions: Role conflict experienced by gambling venue staff and patrons alike inhibits effective referral of potential problem gamblers into treatment. Reducing the need for gambling venue staff to make a perceived moral judgement about the gambling behaviours of specific patrons may improve the reception of responsible gambling information and promote help-seeking. Access full article

Problem gambling and psychological distress: a cross-national perspective on the mediating effect of consumer debt and debt problems among emerging adults (open access article)

Oksanen, A., Savolainen, I., Sirola, A., &Kaakinen, M. (2018). Harm Reduction Journal, 15(1). doi https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-018-0251-9

Background: Severe economic difficulties are common among younger generations who currently have an easy access to consumer credit and payday loans in many Western countries. These accessible yet expensive short-term loans may lead to more severe financial difficulties, including default and debt enforcement, both which are defined as debt problems within this study. This study hypothesized that consumer debt and debt problems mediate the relationship between problematic gambling and psychological distress. Excessive gambling can be funded with consumer debt, which in turn leads to the accumulation of financial stressors and, eventually, psychological distress. Access full article

Public attitudes towards gambling product harm and harm reduction strategies: an online study of 16–88 year olds in Victoria, Australia

By Thomas, S. L., Randle, M., Bestman, A., Pitt, H., Bowe, S. J., Cowlishaw, S., & Daube, M.

Gambling has quickly emerged as an important global public health issue. With new technologies used to develop high intensity gambling products and promotions aimed at driving consumption, public health organisations and researchers, community groups, and politicians have argued for a range of regulatory and education measures aimed at reducing gambling harm. However, there has been limited research seeking to understand community perceptions of the harms associated with gambling products and environments, and the level of community support for strategies designed to prevent and reduce gambling harm.

Thomas, S. L., Randle, M., Bestman, A., Pitt, H., Bowe, S. J., Cowlishaw, S., & Daube, M. (2017). Public attitudes towards gambling product harm and harm reduction strategies: an online study of 16–88 year olds in Victoria, Australia. Harm Reduction Journal, 14, 49. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-017-0173-y

Children’s attitudes towards Electronic Gambling Machines: an exploratory qualitative study of children who attend community clubs (open access)

By Amy Bestman, Samantha Thomas, Melanie Randle and Hannah Pitt

This research sought to explore whether children’s visual and auditory exposure to Electronic Gambling Machines (EGMs) in community clubs contributed to shaping their attitudes towards these types of potentially harmful gambling products. This research also examined children’s knowledge of EGM behaviours in adults within their social networks.

Factors that influence children’s gambling attitudes and consumption intentions: lessons for gambling harm prevention research, policies and advocacy strategies (full text)

Hannah Pitt, Samantha L. Thomas, Amy Bestman, Mike Daube and Jeffrey Derevensky.

Background: Harmful gambling is a public health issue that affects not only adults but also children. With the development of a range of new gambling products, and the marketing for these products, children are potentially exposed to gambling more than ever before. While there have been many calls to develop strategies which protect children from harmful gambling products, very little is known about the factors that may influence children’s attitudes towards these products. This study aimed to explore children’s gambling attitudes and consumption intentions and the range of consumer socialisation factors that may influence these attitudes and behaviours.

Methods: Children aged 8 to 16 years old (n = 48) were interviewed in Melbourne, Australia. A semi-structured interview format included activities with children and open-ended questions. We explored children’s perceptions of the popularity of different gambling products, their current engagement with gambling, and their future gambling consumption intentions. We used thematic analysis to explore children’s narratives with a focus on the range of socialising factors that may shape children’s gambling attitudes and perceptions.

Results: Three key themes emerged from the data. First, children’s perceptions of the popularity of different products were shaped by what they had seen or heard about these products, whether through family activities, the media (and in particular marketing) of gambling products, and/or the alignment of gambling products with sport. Second, children’s gambling behaviours were influenced by family members and culturally valued events. Third, many children indicated consumption intentions towards sports betting. This was due to four key factors: (1) the alignment of gambling with culturally valued activities; (2) their perceived knowledge about sport; (3) the marketing and advertising of gambling products (and in particular sports betting); and (4) the influence of friends and family.

Conclusions: This study indicates that there is a range of socialisation factors, particularly family and the media (predominantly via marketing), which may be positively shaping children’s gambling attitudes, behaviours and consumption intentions. There is a need for governments to develop effective policies and regulations to reduce children’s exposure to gambling products and ensure they are protected from the harms associated with gambling.

Pitt, H., Thomas, S. L., Bestman, A., Daube, M., & Derevensky, J. (2017). Factors that influence children’s gambling attitudes and consumption intentions: lessons for gambling harm prevention research, policies and advocacy strategies. Harm Reduction Journal, 14, 11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-017-0136-3