Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO) has partnered with the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR) to offer a webinar to help inform and educate the industry on contemporary research on gambling harms.
Drawing on the most recent data on gambling-related harms, GREO focused specifically on online gambling and the harms associated with the activity.
Lindsay Kalbfleisch, Head of Stakeholder Engagement, Liz Lusk, Director of Strategy, and Dr. Trudy Smit Quosai, Managing Director, participated in the webinar on behalf of GREO.
GREO Strategy Director Lusk opened the webinar with an introduction to the organizationsaying: “We started 20 years ago, initially mandated to work across Canada in Ontario and nationally on safer gambling and gambling harm reduction. We have grown and now work globally with multiple jurisdictions on gambling and gambling policies, practices and programs, all in the area of harm reduction and health promotion.
She continued, “We have a Safer Gambling Evidence Center, which is the world’s largest digital collection of safer gambling evidence. We also host a repository of research-grade game data to support secondary research analysis.
“We deliver on-demand guidance notes that are driven by our clients and stakeholders to respond and support evidence-based decision-making in a very short timeframe. So if we have emerging hot topics, or key issues, or new legislation – things that signal change and require leveling and strengthening our evidence-based decision-making – that’s where we support in this way.
Kalbfleisch, GREO’s Stakeholder Engagement Manager, then turned to the hugely important topic in the industry today of problem gambling and gambling-related harms, with a particular focus on online gambling. She explained the growing importance of this issue within the industry and noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened the concern surrounding it.
“We know that addressing the harms associated with online gambling is more important today than ever,” Kalbfleisch said. “We know that online gaming is growing rapidly across the world and that the very nature of online gaming allows players uninterrupted access to regulated and unregulated gaming platforms.
“What makes it even more timely is that studies show us that since the onset of Covid-19 and associated restrictions, there has been an increase in online gambling, while a movement of people who gamble in terrestrial places has shifted to online gaming. Depending on the jurisdiction, some figures show that up to 25-30% of gamers have moved in this direction. So not only is it growing rapidly, but only the realities of what we experienced really inspired people to engage in a new way.
Examining online gambling in more detail, Kalbfleisch said: “We know that gambling in general can lead to harm, but there are certain mechanics and realities associated with online gambling that perhaps make it more likely that people will hurt by playing in this space.”
We know that it is now more important than ever to address the harm associated with online gambling. We know that online gambling is growing rapidly across the world and the very nature of online gambling allows players uninterrupted access to regulated and unregulated gambling platforms.
The webinar also focused on other key areas of gambling harm, such as innovative approaches to online gambling regulation and harnessing the digital environment to reduce harm. But the future and how this issue will be addressed in the months and years to come is also of paramount importance.
Kalbfleisch discussed the next steps for research and evaluation, explaining that “the technology in this space will continue to evolve”, and therefore “we need to continue to commission research to analyze the impact of these individual site features. Web, and what these characteristics mean in terms of harm – the ways in which they can reduce or perpetuate harm.
She noted that when thinking about evaluations of any policy innovation, the next logical step is evaluation. “We pilot it, we make our best guess, and then we have to meaningfully and thoughtfully explore what the difference was, based on our policy,” Kalbfleisch said.
“And the way the literature says we need to do this is to articulate very clearly the intended outcomes of our policy changes and ensure that our evaluations draw on multiple lines of evidence; both aggregated data from our player systems and data from discussions with our players and understanding the impact of our policies.”
Kalbfleisch added that the full range of time frames must be taken into account: “Research also suggests that for policy change we need to make sure that we assess in the short term, but also in the medium and long term, because we know that the initial response to our policies is not always representative of what things will look like in the longer term.”
GREO’s Stakeholder Engagement Manager explained that it can take time for behavioral changes and associated harms to occur, so zooming out is needed to better understand meaningful differences based on changes. of politics.
Kalbfleisch concluded: “Perhaps most importantly in an online gambling space, given the global nature and the fact that all jurisdictions grapple with many issues at the same time, researchers suggest that international collaboration to through opportunities for groups and international partners and players to come together is going to be critical, so that’s where we need to be heading.