To inform, better than to forbid
Pieter Remmers, general secretary of the European Association for Study on Gambling, illustrates the issues in the spotlight of the new edition of EASG and focuses on the most effective tools to fight pathological gaming and promote the responsible one.
Malta world capital of gaming policies and studies once again, with the twelfth edition of the European Conference on Gambling Studies and Policy Issues, which in September (11 – 14, at the Grand Hotel Excelsior in La Valletta, to be exact) focuses its attention on a subject, obviously chosen for some time, not having as exclusive reference point the Italian events, but that sounds prophetic especially for the Italian operators. “Freedom of Choice or Limited Opportunities”, that is to say the scenario envisaged with the entry into force of the law converting the Dignity decree of Minister Luigi Di Maio, which prohibits advertising of gaming with cash winnings and its sponsorships, and with the reform of the sector by the government, provided by the same law and expected within six months.
Therefore, the event (of which Gioco News is media partner) is an opportunity not only to study the most recent scientific approaches on the prevention and treatment of pathological gaming, but also to discuss the government’s policies on the matter, starting from the effectiveness of prohibitionist measures, in terms of protection of consumers and vulnerable groups. The analysis of Pieter Riemmers, from the Dutch Assissa Consultancy Europe and general secretary of the European Association for Study on Gambling, which organizes the event hosted on the island of the knights, starts just from the new (and in process) Italian scenario.
“The influence of gambling advertising and the role it has related to developing problem gambling and gambling disorder is as we as we can see at the moment rather limited. Of course you raise awareness on responsible gaming, but the regulations for whom it is meant has limited result”
Remmers stresses how we talk a lot about “stricter rules for advertising” and “stricter enforcement of rules for advertising”. But “I would prefer a pro-active industry, rather than stricter rules. Per Binde (Sweden) has done research on this and he concludes that the influence of advertising on the behavior of the player is limited. A total ban is not what we should aim for and it would attract more illegal gambling”.
So, what are the most effective actions to promote responsible gaming? Set daily time limits to the operation of gaming machines, or provide “distances” from sensitive places are instruments suitable for the purpose?
“Responsible gaming can be promoted in lots of different ways. In essence responsible gaming and related to that the education of players, has to primarily focus on informed choice, maybe even better informed decision making based on a stepped care model. That means it is essential to give players the information that is needed for the phase or stage that he is in. Don’t overdo it, but as an operator you’ll have to be pro-active and take your responsibility. Time limits, money spent limits can help to stay in control, but not for the diehards, not for the problem gamblers and those who suffer from a gambling disorder. A certain distance from sensitive places like schools can help, but there is no fundamental evidence if 300 meters ,or 500, or 700 is the right choice”.
Are there games that are more “dangerous” than others? What are the key factors for a classification?
“Some games are more dangerous that others, in most cases this has to do with the speed of the game and how intensive the game is, very fast slot machine games (less than 3 seconds), inplay sportsbetting is more dangerous than placing a bit on match that takes place in a couple of days. Games are being developed to be attractive for the players. Instruments (GamGard en Asterig) have been developed to identify possible dangerous features”.
Are there, however, groups of people who are at greater risk of developing a form of gambling addiction?
“In general you’ll find problem gambling and gambling disorders in the whole society.
If we talk about vulnerable risk groups? Young people in general, especially when they are really young, the later you start, in general the least problems are being developed. The are also societal and cultural differences that make poor people, unemployed people, more vulnerable. Research is needed to define what specific aspects are present in specific cultures and jurisdictions”.
Is pathological gaming a real problem in Europe and in Italy?
“Pathological gambling/gambling discorder is for sure a real problem. However maybe the problem is not as big as we usually think. In any case a much a smaller problem than alcohol. If we look at Europe and the rest of the world and I think Italy is not an exception on this, for many years the prevalence rates are stable between 0.5 – 2%. And despite the fact that gambling is much more available nowadays than 20 years ago, especially if we look at internet gambling, it looks like that in most countries are the same as they were 20 years ago. Maybe that means that we are more able to control ourselves in a better way than before?”
Is prohibition a useful instrument to protect players and consumers?
“Prohibition is definitely not the solution for the gambling problem as people will always find their way to gamble and bet if they really want”.
What are the subjects that will be covered in the 2018 edition, almost upon us, of the EASG?
“We will have over 150 presentations in a bit over 2,5 days. So it is difficult to say there is one main topic. We will have special pre-conference workshops on the very first day that are about regulation and mindfulness.
The formal opening is focused on new trends and topics like loot boxes, match fixing and new currencies like bitcoins, but it also gives us insight to what the industry will have a focus on in the near future. The Leading Ladies in Gambling will have a special session on Thursday as well as the present top researchers Blaszsinsky, Derevensky, Griffiths and Potenza.
Special workhops IMGL are also planned, and great attention will be given to women’s gaming, regulation, etc. Moreover, a lot of research regarding problem gambling and responsible gaming.
It is absolutely worth to come to Malta in September 2018”.