The gambling industry has seen tremendous international growth in recent years, and all signs point to that trend continuing for the foreseeable future. However, a lack of diligent regulation and enforcement has also spawned an increase in gambling addiction in some jurisdictions.
Australia is among those beginning to identify the rising problem it faces, and its leader wants action.
As Gambling News reported last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pushing for the creation of a National Self-Exclusion Register to allow people to prohibit themselves from gambling.
Per statistics cited in the report, 80% of Australians engage in some form of gambling — the highest rate of any country in the world. Not all gamblers are problem gamblers, of course, but that big number is only growing as online options become more prevalent.
From the article:
According to the final report of the National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering (National Framework) baseline study, published on Nov. 24, “the proportion of people who placed a bet on sports, racing or other events via the internet is estimated to have almost doubled between 2012 and 2018, from 16% to 34%.”
Australia has no restrictions on online gambling at the player level, meaning that anyone can log on to any website and wager. The convenience of online gambling, allowing customers to play on the go, also makes it a dangerous format for problem gamblers.
Other online gambling countries, like the UK and Canada, employ their centralized self-exclusion systems.
That brings us to the United States, a much larger market for gambling.
US sports betting is already a multibillion-dollar industry by itself, projected by Gambling Compliance to reach $5.7 billion by 2024. Operators are scrambling to capture market share, and the ones who are harnessing the internet are reaping the greatest rewards so far.
The turning point for US online gambling came with the Supreme Court decision to take down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018. Since then, nearly a dozen states have legalized online sports betting.
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) estimates that about 5 million people are compulsive gamblers. And only about 8% of them (400,000 people) will seek help on their own.
Fortunately, problem gambling responds to effective treatment. Unfortunately, not all stakeholders are willing to take proactive measures.
In a May 2018 interview with USA Today, NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte argued that gambling addiction costs up to $7 billion in annual social ills, and that was with PASPA in effect.
US gambling generated around $115 billion in revenue in 2017, according to Whyte, while states allocated just $71 million to prevent and treat the problems that can come along with it.
The NCPG last year released a paper covering possible solutions for gambling addiction in the US. Its list of suggestions included self-exclusion and other statutory fixes, such as tightening age limits for gamblers.
In truth, however, the former is not especially effective in curtailing addictive behavior.
Self-exclusion is a voluntary exercise, which means the player must be ready to abstain on their own. As the NCPG estimate noted, only a minuscule 8% of current compulsive gamblers have the resolve to help themselves.
Then there’s the effectiveness of the program. According to a 2019 BBC study, addicts can sometimes circumvent the system by simply changing emails or switching letters in their names when registering on online gambling sites.
In December 2017, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation similarly investigated the effectiveness of the self-exclusion program operated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. A journalist testing the system was able to enter gambling venues in the city despite being registered and photographed for the program.
If history has taught us anything, it is that people must not be left to curb their addictions. All gambling stakeholders, including the government, the operators, and the players need to be involved in addressing the problem.
For a massive market like the US, self-exclusion simply won’t scratch the surface of problem gambling.