In July 2014, the European Commission called for all countries in the European Union (EU) to display warning messages along with all forms of advertising dedicated to online gambling. The potential legislation has subsequently been compared to the health warnings that are currently displayed on cigarette packs. The purpose of the move by the EU executive is for the purpose of tackling the issue of problem gambling. This is a serious step for an industry said to be worth approximately £8.5 billion and growing by 15% each year. At present, the call for tighter advertising control is only a recommendation, and thus operators are not obliged to comply.
France Already Compliant
To a degree, France is already compliant with the recommendations. All forms of advertising related to igaming and gambling operators must be accompanied with a health warning along with a number for a helpline. It is not unforeseeable that other EU members will follow suit by adding health warnings for the benefit of their citizens.
Bans for Sporting Events
Also part of the recommendation was for gambling operators to be banned from advertising at sporting events, as these have the potential to be viewed by minors as well as adults. The likes of the Champions League, World Cup, and European Championships could all eventually be affected. And with sporting advertisements dominated by gambling operators, this would major repercussions for the generation of funds.
Comparison with Smoking
The comparison with smoking is relatively crude, just as it would be for alcohol and drugs. Then again, however, EU politicians are skilled at conjuring vivid images of fearful outcomes in the minds of their people. Admittedly, smoking is a wonderful comparison when used for the purposes. The fact of the matter, though, is that they are taking away from anti-smoking campaigns by jumping on the back.
Millions of euros are spent every year to educate EU residents as to the damaging health risks of smoking. And the fact of the matter is that millions of people are at an immediate risk from smoking, whereas problem gambling would affect a lot fewer. These people have a specialised problem that needs to be dealt with a specialised strategy – not by assuming that gamblers are the same as chronic smokers.
Online Presents a New Risk
There can be no denial that online gambling has not increased the level or risk for compulsive gamblers. Where the average punter will be happy to wager an affordable stake on a game or sport with which they are familiar, a compulsive gambler will take unnecessary risks on activities that they don’t completely understand. That being said, online gambling operators have made an effort to combat the problem by giving all players the right to impose deposit limits and also to self-exclude themselves for a chosen period of time. However, more should be done to make players aware of these options available to them. Many who know about them show no hesitation when it comes to using them.
To say that online gambling is the same as smoking is unfair on everyone involved. Any comparisons to smoking should be done so alongside other addictive issues, such as sex, drugs, and alcohol. Even then, each issue should not be given adequate attention. Online gambling is a unique problem that is affecting the lives of many in need, and they won’t get the help they need until a new approach is adopted. Education beyond cursory warnings would be the most effective solution. Support organisations like GamCare would certainly approve of greater education to educate victims and help them to form new behavioural patterns.
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