Embracing public health approaches to gambling? A review of global legislative and regulatory trends
In recent years, calls to address gambling harms as a public health issue have become increasingly prominent within the international public health community. Growing number of public health actors advocate for a move away from the long-dominant Reno Model of gambling regulation grounded in the principles of individual responsibility and its focus on problem gamblers towards a public health approach adopting structural and population-level perspectives on gambling harms. In this study, we analysed the extent to which these competing policy frames have shaped legislation and regulation in countries that have recently either significantly restricted or opened up their markets to legal gambling.
Using Vixio Gambling Compliance database, we identified all countries that have either legalized or banned one or more forms of gambling since 2018. The resulting sample included 31 countries from across Europe, Asia, Africa and Americas. For each country, we then extracted passed gambling legislation, regulatory documents, and the regulator’s public-facing sources. These documents were coded and analysed employing the method of critical frame analysis (CFA). CFA aims to uncover how particular meanings of reality (e.g., gambling harms) are constructed in policy documents and how they shape proposed actions.
While some countries have adopted elements of the public health approach (e.g., focus on gambling product design in Germany), this is not a universal trend. In the majority of countries analysed, relatively little attention is being paid to gambling harms. When the issue is being explicitly addressed, ‘responsible gambling’ remains the predominant policy frame structuring proposed actions.
Despite increasing recognition of the importance of applying public health approach to gambling, this framing is not being comprehensively employed within recent global legislation and regulation. As these policies set the framework for future activity, public health advocates face an ongoing struggle to integrate their perspectives on harm reduction into action.