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Player Protection – What Have Governments/ Operators Done to Keep Players Safe?

Scratching your next lucky ticket for the day, you might have already developed a gambling addiction, without even realizing it. These days, the gambling industry has turned into a multi-faceted business. Every day, people are practically “bombarded” with a number of gambling offerings. Gambling has turned into a popular pastime for adults, who want to experience the emotional high associated with taking huge risks.

Unfortunately, things can tailspin out of control and even lead to severe financial troubles. Compulsive gamblers usually accrue large debts in an attempt to find extra money to fund their “hobby”. A popular expression that can best describe a certain situation is “robbing from Peter to pay Paul”, or i.e. to use borrowed money to bet with.

Gambling epidemic has gripped the modern world. There is no age limit for the gambling-related problems. To make it clearer, the gambling addiction is very similar to a disease – it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or any other social or personal characteristics.

What Spurs Gambling Addictions

People who suffer from gambling addictions are usually encouraged to keep on playing because they won a small amount of money. At a certain moment, the idea of winning gives way to the addiction to the gambling itself. The gambling addicts are usually trying to recoup their losses and just keep on wagering money. Gambling addicts are usually inspired by the idea that the next try might be their big win.

Here it is important to bust one long-held myth that only casino games are addictive. Many people even do not realize that they are involved in a gambling activity. In fact, gambling games have 3 main factors, including chance, consideration (the amount of money which a player pays in order to participate in the game) and a prize. If a game involves all the 3 elements, it can be classified as gambling.

People, who have certain financial problems are among the most vulnerable and prone to gambling addictions. The reason for that is that they believe that they can climb out the financial hole with the help of gambling. Such people think that gambling offers them a chance to make a lot of money easily and in no time. But as wise people say, easy come, easy go. People, who are vulnerable to gambling-related issues often refuse to see the reality that gambling games are usually designed to drain their money and the house always comes out the winner in the end. In that sense, we often talk about a vulnerable group of people.

Symptoms of Gambling Addiction and Treatment

In brief, gambling addiction can be described as a “hidden” disease, which has no obvious physical signs or symptoms that can be quickly recognized. The silver lining in the cloud is that the compulsive gamblers can find a way out of the vicious circle. All type of addictions can find their cause in psychology. Hence, there is no universal pill to stop the addiction, but with the proper treatment and family support, gamblers can break the hold gambling has over their lives. The first, and usually the hardest, step is to face the problem and admit it. Player, who find themselves unable to stop gambling are usually recommended to find help as they might have already developed gambling addiction or might be at risk of developing it.

Some Games More Addictive than Others

Researchers proved that some games are more addictive than others. According to the revelations, fast-paced games such as slot machines or scratch off tickets are more likely to become addictive. These usually offer players the chance to strike it in a couple of seconds. What is more is that the fast games are usually low stakes games, which means that players are able to play for a small amount of money. People rarely realize that they are losing substantial amounts of money in a short space of time. In other words, you start pulling the slot machine handle in the evening, and before you know, it is time to go to work again. Another important factor that contributes to the attractiveness of the fast games is that these do not require any special skills.

World’s Biggest Gambling Nations

To introduce a framework that would regulate the gambling industry in a socially responsible manner has turned into a major concern for all the countries around the globe, which decided to regulate their gambling market. Governments are investing millions, if not billions, in an attempt to protect people from social ills caused by gambling activities. Some countries like Australia and Singapore are more affected by gambling-related issues than others.

According to a research from 2016, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, and Finland are topping the list of countries that gamble the most. Hence, these countries are investing frantic efforts to adequately address the issue and minimize the problem. The lines below will provide the readers with further information regarding the preventive measures taken by the governments and operators to curb the problem. It is important to note that governments and operators usually join forces to efficiently fight problem gambling, so it is hard to classify them by their initiator.

Self-Exclusion Systems

One of the most-widespread methods to prevent players from gambling-related problems is the self-exclusion systems. For those, who just switched on the “gambling channel”, self-exclusion systems allow individuals to ask casino operators to block their accounts and self-exclude themselves from their preferred gambling sites for an agreed time of at least six months up to a maximum of 5 years.

Players, who fear they have become addicted or are vulnerable to gambling issues are encouraged to quit playing. The system is based on the personal choice of the players to voluntarily request their names to be added to the self-exclusion register. The casino operator is obliged to comply with the player’s wish.

However, many casino operators explained that the system is flawed as it is time-consuming and the players need to file different request forms in order to exclude themselves from all betting shops. In order to improve the system, in 2014 it was suggested a universal register through which players can exclude themselves from all betting sites with one action.

Pre-Commitment Systems

Pre-commitment systems are the other most popular method, which the governments and the electronic gambling machines (EGMs) operators have introduced. EGMs are highly condemned devices, which appeared on the radar screens of different countries, especially Australia. It is important to explain that Australia is fighting with gambling-related problems for years. The country’s problem ensues from the great number of poker machines, or pokies as the Australians call them, which are easily available.

Pre-commitment systems are designed to prevent players from gambling issues and significant financial losses. It allows players to set time and loss limits before the playing session begins. In that way, the players can prevent themselves from spending more money than they initially intended. The pre-commitment systems soared on the news some time ago, but operators explained that the systems, which are installed on all poker machines in Australia, failed to prevent players from gambling issues. Another unflattering detail is that these systems last for 24 hours, which means that these do not provide long-term support for players at risk. Industry insiders claim that the pre-commitment systems are a short-term solution to the problem.

Special Data to Reduce Harm

Many governments recommended to the online gambling operators to use special data, which are designed to problem gambling behavior to detect potentially risky players. However, it is difficult to outline specific risk factors. Intense gambling involvement, multiple bets per day, many active betting days per month and high overall stakes and net loss have been identified as sure signs of gambling problems. Researchers are still examining the issue to identify more markers that may predict gambling problems.

In fact, such preventive measures are not specifically required by the Internet gambling regulators, which means that the online casinos should undertake that initiative by themselves. Another obstacle is that most of the online gambling operators were unwilling to share their data to be used for research purposes, which means that the creation of such data is impossible at this stage.

Limited Access to Casino Floors

So far, we discussed the preventive measures within the online gambling sphere. However, the land-based casinos also have implemented certain strategies to curb gambling problems. It is a well-known fact that minors are not allowed to enter a casino. The gambling age may vary for different types of gambling. Speaking of gambling age, it is important to note that minimum gambling age refers to the countries, in which gambling is legal.

In countries like South Korea, locals are not allowed to enter a casino and play. The only-foreigners casino facilities, on the other hand, offer unlimited access to out-of-the-country guests. Japan, which regulated its casino industry recently, is currently working on its responsible gambling framework, expected to be approved by the end of the Diet’s 2017 legislative session. Among all other proposals, country’s officials suggested that there should be a limit on the number of casino visits per person. Supposing that the measure enters Japan’s responsible gambling framework, it is to target only locals.

ATMs to be Placed Outside the Casino Floors

Reports have emerged that Japanese lawmakers also consider prohibiting ATMs from casino floors. What is more is that ATMs that are installed near the casinos should not issue credits to players. In that way, the players are unable to run into debts because of gambling. In 2015, Massachusetts announced its decision to impose limitations on the cash machines. The state Legislature asserted that all ATMs should be located at some distance from casino floors.

Ban on the Gambling-Related Advertisements

Some time ago, the gambling-related advertisements have caused a heated debate, which is still brewing. A number of governments are currently seeking to restrict such commercials, especially during live sports coverage. The idea was introduced as a preventive measure to minimize the influence of gambling ads on vulnerable people. Some countries consider restricting the distribution of gambling-related commercials before midnight, while others were more extreme and want to restrict betting-related ads in public spaces and local media. The implementation of new advertising regulations also aims at preventing minors from gambling-related problems.

Australia is the latest country to join the growing list of countries, seeking to implement new advertising regulations in order to reduce further popularizing of various gambling products and services. Many opponents of the gambling-related ads explained that such aggressive campaigns appear even on websites intended for underage persons. At present, no country have introduced a ban on the gambling-related ads.

Slash of the Maximum Stake

The British government is fighting with another problem, and that is the gambling addiction to fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). The gambling devices have been engulfed in flames for some time. The British government considers launching a crackdown on the highly-controversial gambling machines. The UK government released its triennial review of the nation’s gambling industry this fall. The report recommended that the maximum FOBTs stake should be drastically reduced to just £2 from the current £100.

However, the idea is still pending the government’s stamp. Industry experts are worried that the government will lose millions in gross gambling yield, supposing that the measure comes into action. FOBTs are among the country’s major gambling revenue generators.

In fact, responsible gambling has turned into a major concern for the countries, which regulated their gambling markets. Statistically, countries around the globe spend billions in various campaigns and measures to reduce gambling-related harm. It is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of harm minimizing strategies, but the countries remain committed in their efforts to prevent people from gambling addictions. Hence, it is impossible to introduce a conceptual theoretical framework that is to guarantee the minimization of the gambling-related problems. The method for solving this problem remains the fundamental trial and error strategy.