Every second year the organization SNSUS organizes a conference about problem gambling. The most recent conference was held in Odense, May 29-31, 2017. About 120 people from the Nordic countries participated.
The theme of the pre-conference was “Video games – concerns and enthusiasm”. The content of the main conference was very varied: prevention, treatment, methodological issues, responsible gambling, and empirical research of many kinds.
Two international speakers had been invited. Sally Gainsbury from Australia spoke about “New technology and gambling: The influence of the Internet on gambling problems.” Even if only half of the new technologies that she outlined will catch on, it would profoundly change the international gambling scene. Robert Williams from Canada lectured on “Best practices in assessing problem gambling and level of gambling-related harm in population”. The former topic was very relevant to an idea that was discussed at two other sessions: a pan-Nordic study on problem gambling prevalence. The latter topic – gambling-related harm – is currently debated by gambling researchers (see this post).
A presentation that I personally found very interesting was held by Tanja Sveen from Norsk Tipping: “Experiences from an ongoing project where Norsk Tipping contacts high consumers among the customers”. Involved in this project is Jakob Jonsson at the company Sustainable Interaction. The basic idea is that the gambling company pro-actively contacts (by making a phone call) customers who gamble a lot. They are asked if they know how much they really spend and are happy with their gambling. The preliminary results show that an overwhelming majority of customers approve of being contacted; very few get upset . The results also show that, at least in the short perspective, the pro-active phone calls reduce excessive spending and harmful gambling. Long-term effects are to be studied.
Norsk Tipping is not alone among gambling companies to contact possible problem gamblers in this way. I believe that pro-activity like this is an important component in reducing gambling problems. Today, gambling companies spend huge sums on marketing that urges people to gamble. It is now time to start spending huge sums on taking greater responsibility for the problems that gambling causes. Surely, gamblers themselves have the responsibility to keep their gambling within reasonable limits, but problems of various kinds and addiction to gambling erode rational thinking. In these cases, the provider of gambling – who supplies gambling products carefully tailored to stimulate gambling – should take responsibility for its business. The recent proposal for re-regulation of the Swedish gambling market will allow the gambling authority to make sure that the licensed companies take good care of their customers – a duty of care. I hope that in a few years, we will look back at the present situation and wonder how it could be accepted that gambling companies allowed some customers to spend millions on gambling, doing nothing to find out if these customers actually could afford to gamble that much or if they were addicted to gambling.
I myself presented an overview of gambling advertising and results from a study on risk of problem gambling in occupational groups (with Ulla Romild).
The presentations from the eleventh SNSUS conference in Odense are available here.