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Key principles underlying the strategy

This strategy is based on a number of key principles. They are set out here for clarity. They have not always been made explicit in the past.
  • The reasons people choose to gamble are diverse. For many, it can be an enjoyable leisure time activity. But for a significant minority it can be a cause of harm, sometimes considerable harm. Not all harm is of a financial nature.

  • Prevention of harm is better than having to help individuals, families and society deal with the consequences after the event. However, effective treatment should still be available to those who need help.

  • The responsible gambling strategy needs to consider not just individuals experiencing harmful gambling, but also those affected by their actions, whether directly or indirectly. As suggested earlier, the numbers in this group are likely to be greater than those of problem gamblers. The needs of children and young persons are particularly important.

  • The causes and effects of harmful gambling are complex. The strategy needs to be comprehensive, focussing on gambling products, the gambling process and the environment in which gambling occurs, as well as on gamblers themselves. It also needs to recognise the different circumstances and behaviour of individual gamblers and what causes them to gamble responsibly, or otherwise.

  • Treatment needs to respond to individual circumstances. Problem gambling can be associated with other issues, such as mental illness or drug or alcohol misuse. Therapy often needs to treat these co-morbidities, or their underlying causes, as well as the gambling itself. Conversely, problem gamblers may possess other strengths or assets (like a supportive family) which can be built on to help recovery.

  • Better understanding of how to minimise or mitigate harm is likely to flow from improved knowledge about the nature and determinants of gambling behaviour. Interventions should always be based on the best evidence available. But it is important that desirable practical action is not inhibited by unrealistic expectations about perfect information, or the temptation to demand ever more research before doing anything. Pace of delivery is important.

  • Gambling operators have a particular responsibility for harm minimisation, not least because of their licence obligations. It is they who operate and promote gambling, they who have the relationship with the customer, they who design and market new products. It is their companies which profit from losses incurred by customers who have a problem with their gambling.

  • Operators do not exist in a vacuum. People who choose to gamble should be expected to take responsibility for their own actions, often a necessary first step to recovery. But gambling behaviour is shaped by many influences. Some people may be more vulnerable to harm than others, for health reasons or because of the circumstances of their lives. So alongside individual responsibility there is a wider responsibility on the state and a range of other actors. The state also receives significant tax revenues from gambling activity.

  • Addressing gambling-related harm, like other public health issues, is, or ought to be, a collective responsibility, to be addressed by a range of organisations and agencies working co-operatively.