The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) has published a report outlining what a public health approach to gambling would look like in Scotland, calling on authorities to restrict gambling advertising and implement gambling harm education in schools.
The document outlines current gambling laws and policies in Scotland, as well as highlighting those most at risk of gambling harm and presenting measures Spice deems to be more effecting in curbing harm.
The report outlines four universal measures for combatting gambling harm which it said could potentially minimise the impact of problem gambling.
The first is public information campaigns. Although campaigns are currently in place throughout the UK, the report notes that there is “little evidence” that the messaging influences a change in behaviour. Specifically, the report comments on the “When the fun stops, stop” slogan, retired in 2021, which the report said had been criticised as “harmful” by those who had experienced harmful gambling.
School education is second, with the report stating that education programmes for children – including the Scottish Gambling Education Hub – have “limited evidence” as to whether they work or not.
Advertising and access
Advertising is also listed, having been a topical subject for regulation in the UK and a possible aspect of the much-delayed Gambling Act Review, which is set to be published in the coming weeks.
The report said that there are “few mandatory or legal restrictions on gambling advertisements” currently.
“Gambling advertising occurs across a wide range of platforms, including in sports venues, online and on television it,” said. “Advertising and promotions, including through the sponsorship of sports teams, are regularly received by those considered vulnerable by the Gambling Act 2005.
“This includes children and those with gambling problems.”
The report also notes that Scottish Women’s Football have already chosen to not accept sponsors from gambling or alcohol industries.
Lastly is restricting access, which the report says is a difficult feat due to the 24/7 availability of online gambling. While it said that raising the minimum age to gamble could be a possible way to restrict access, it noted that “evidence for the potential effectiveness of this approach is lacking”.
Evaluating gambling harm
The report also includes data gathered during the Scottish Health Survey in 2021. This survey found that 0.4% of respondents experienced problem gambling, while 6.0% were classed as at some level of risk of gambling harm.
Breaking the at-risk group down, 4.5% of people were classed as low-risk when it came to gambling harms, and 1.5% were at a moderate risk.
The data also revealed that 58% of respondents had gambled in the last year, while 42% had not. The uptick in gambling participation was also pointed out, which rose by 7.0% from 2012 to 2021.
Looking at gambling participation by sex, the data revealed that 61.0% of men had participated in gambling, compared to 56% of women.
Public health approach
Spice’s public health approach says that the Scottish government should pay the same level of attention to gambling harms as it does to alcohol, tobacco and drug harms.
“In Scotland, a public health approach is already taken to reduce harms from alcohol,
tobacco and drug misuse,” reads the report. “This involves a wide range of organisations including the NHS and charities, working on education, prevention and early intervention, as well as
support and treatment for those experiencing harms.”
“A similar approach could be taken to reduce gambling harms to individuals, families, communities and society using evidence to inform policy and health measures.”
The report also links gambling with “unhealthy behaviour” such as smoking, high-risk alcohol drinking, drug use, poor diet and obesity”.