The global gambling market is in a bit of a puzzle. Before now, gambling companies operated without worrying about the consequences. Times have changed. While this reckless abandon made certain countries averse to gambling, other countries are trying to paper over the cracks through regulation.
Bearing these in mind, it becomes easy to understand why gambling firms set up shop in countries with a favorable regulatory framework. As gambling became popular, more regions amended their laws to attract these players.
According to data from Statista, the global online gambling industry was worth about $45.8 billion in 2017, and that number expected to balloon to $102.75 billion in 202. There are a lot of reasons why this number is spiraling out of control. but it won’t get past the easy access to games through smartphones, and the proliferation of betting ads.
Gambling Addiction: the Cancer that Refuses to Die
Gambling as an industry has continued to grow, but the social impact of their platforms can be quite toxic. Sophistication and ease of access have made it much simpler for gamers to get hooked, which has caused more harm than good.
Back in 2012, a report from the University of Buffalo showed that up to 750,000 Americans between the ages of 14 to 21 years struggle with severe gambling addictions. In the UK, it’s estimated that around 300,000 people have gambling disorders.
A further 540,000 were described to be at “moderate risk” of developing these disorders.
📺 WATCH: The scourge of online #gambling is becoming a matter of national urgency.
— Carolyn Harris MP (@carolynharris24) March 19, 2019
The increase in the number of individuals with gambling issues in different countries has led to the problem taking center stage. For some countries, merely regulating the industry is almost an impossible endeavor. For others, where there’s some semblance of regulation, it should be easier to curb the menace.
Europe is Trying Hard to Help Addicts
When it comes to nipping gambling addiction in the bud, no one comes close to Norway.
The Norwegian government has made significant headway in managing gambling addiction, thanks to the “no-nonsense” approach it took in 2007.
Two years ago, the government put over 15,000 public slot machines out of commission, as independent research by SINTEF connected the devices with depression, sleep disorders, and anxiety.
Some hundreds of miles away in Finland, the government has strict gambling laws with a state agency regulating the operations of both land-based and online gambling operators. Its largest lottery company Veikkaus Oy, is owned by the government, solely operated by the Ministry of Education.
Most of its earnings even go to causes such as arts and culture. In Canada, the government set up a national initiative to raise awareness about giving lottery tickets to minors following an increase in gambling addiction in the country.
Gambling Companies Need to be Proactive
However, while the government agencies can only do so much, gambling companies need to play their part in ensuring that vices such as underaged and compulsive gambling are curbed.
They also need to clean up the perception surrounding their setup and business model. In some cases, online gambling providers have found it much easier to target people with gambling addictions.
In foresight, it would be beneficial for gambling companies to push for some semblance on regulations. This could be dicey where the operator is the regulator, as in the case of Finland. In Finland, there are reported cases of gas stations having more slot machines than gas pumps as the government seeks to ramp up revenue from casinos.
In Finland the gambling monopoly, that has a duty to minimize gambling problems, has placed 18 000 slot machines at supermarkets and even small local food stores. Ppl who have gambling problems cannot buy food w/o being confronted with the slot machines.
— adam seven 🇫🇮 🇪🇺 (@a7_FIN_SWE) October 25, 2019
Companies need to take proactive steps to protect gamblers and ensure that the player’s best interest is represented. This is one way of warming their way into the hearts of lawmakers and acquire the approval they so desperately seek.
Of course, this isn’t to slight all gambling companies. In July 2019, large betting houses in the UK, including William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral, Paddy Power Betfair, Skybet, and Bet 365 pledged £60m to help fund treatment programs for gambling addicts and those perceived to be at risk.
However, given how many people still struggle with addictions around the world, it is apparent that stakeholders need to do more to control the problems.
Restricting Gamblers is a Great First Step
The most popular (and by far the most logical) of the possible checking methods will have to be imposing limits on gambling. Whether land-based or online, casino companies will need to find ways to restrict people who have symptoms of compulsive gambling to game limits per day. If they can’t monitor everyone, then they could have a blanket limit instead.
The online gambling world turns over about £5bn a year.
Labour's @tom_watson says he is challenging the industry to deal with problem gambling.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 28, 2019
Lawmakers in the United Kingdom are championing this practical move. Several members of Parliament have called for the imposition of strict limits on amounts wagered via online gambling amounts. Back in May, the maximum stake on fixed betting terminals across the kingdom was cut from £100 ($1.29) to £2 ($2.58), after British Culture Secretary Matt Hancock reportedly deemed gambling issues “a very serious social blight needs to be tackled.”
Gambling companies could follow these footsteps, thus ensuring that their customers are prevented from sitting in front of a table, machine, or phone and throwing away every dime they have.
It will also benefit gambling companies to take the first step, as further action by the government could hamper their activities significantly. By imposing strenuous limits on their activities, government action could be so severe that some gambling outfits fold up.
Investing in Customers’ Recuperation
Gambling outfits could also take a proactive role in ensuring that their compulsive gambler customers get the best care. One company championing this cause is the Paf Group, a gambling outfit based out of Finland.
The group runs an Internet gambling company, and it also operates an interesting “payback” scheme for its most loyal customers. Essentially, if you spend up to 120 euros on its site and have been certified by a medical professional as a gambling addict, you are eligible for up to 10 therapy sessions, which could cost thousands of Euros.
Taking a vested interest in the well-being of your customers is never a wrong move. In a world where goodwill and social value mean increasingly more, an initiative such as this could go a long way in cementing social good and raising the company’s PR value.
Gambling laws have relaxed increasingly over the past two decades, and this has opened up outlets of growth for several companies. However, this expansion has also brought a hike in gambling addiction. It is time for the same companies which champion the activity to take central roles in eradicating this problem.