The eleventh conference of the EASG (European Association for the Study of Gambling) was held in Lisbon, 13-16 September, 2016. The presentations are now available at the conference website (click on the “Day 2-3-4” tabs to view the program and the presentations).
This was the seventh EASG conference that I participated in, starting with Barcelona in 2002. Here are some of my reflections on this year’s conference.
“Harm” seems to be a concept of growing interest in gambling studies (see for example this presentation). By now, the prevalence of problem gambling is well known in many countries. But what exactly are the harms caused by excessive gambling? Can they be measured? It does not make good sense to view harm as simply the items included in diagnostic screens for disordered gambling, such as the PGSI and the DSM-5. Such items describe behaviors and conditions that together are indicative of problem gambling, but each of them need not to be harmful for the individual. For example, it can hardly be considered a harm that someone else criticizes one’s gambling – almost anything you might do might be criticized by someone else. Clearly, gambling harm – to the individual, significant others, and society at large – need to be conceptualized and measured in a different way than the condition of disordered gambling.
Several presenters at the conference talked about the positive sides of gambling, its recreational value (for example this presentation and this presentation). This topic has been too little studied. I have long argued that there is no fundamental difference between the motivations of the recreational and the disordered gambler. Every reason to gamble can be exaggerated to the extent that it becomes harmful. It is well worth studying why people gamble, because that provides a basis for understanding the mechanisms that turn recreational gambling into harmful gambling.
I presented some thought about the effects and consequences of gambling advertising, with reference to data from Sweden. Some of the observations may appear as surprising and contrary to what is expected, while other results are in line with previous studies and extends these with new insights. How these things fit together (I believe they actually do), is the subject of an article that I am currently writing together with a colleague. The presentation is available here.