IAGR partner, GREO, provides IAGR members with a snapshot of regulatory approaches to online gambling worldwide.
GREO is an independent knowledge translation and exchange organisation with two decades of international experience helping organisations improve their programs, policies and practices by harnessing the power of evidence and stakeholder insight.
This month, GREO have shared a selection of research and evidence-formed action around forced breaks to reduce the harms of continuous gambling.
Forced breaks to reduce the harms of continuous gambling
Forms of continuous gambling, such as electronic gambling machines (EGMs), micro-event sports betting, and internet gambling, have been linked to a greater risk of experiencing gambling-related harm. One of the risks of continuous gambling is that people can experience feelings of dissociation and may not notice the amount of time or money they have spent on gambling. As a result, they may end up spending more time or money on gambling than they originally intended.
Forced breaks in gambling, or breaks in play, are interventions that prevent someone from gambling for a brief period, (e.g., a few minutes to an hour) and can help to reduce the harms associated with forms of continuous gambling. Recently studies have started exploring the effectiveness of forced breaks, especially in real-world gambling settings. While limited, the evidence suggests that forced breaks appear to promote safer gambling by helping people to gamble more slowly, gamble for fewer rounds, take voluntary rests from gambling, and reduce their risks of overspending. However, a small number of studies show null or adverse effects. The existing evidence suggests that breaks that are 15 minutes in duration and occur every 30 or 60 minutes may be more effective than shorter or less frequent breaks.
Research to inform action
Below is a selection of research article summaries that can help to inform regulatory decisions around forced breaks in play for forms of continuous gambling:
- A motor control task can help people reduce problematic gambling behaviours
- Evidence for responsible gambling interventions and tools
- A review of the slot machine zone: Proposing the gambling immersion model
- Mandatory play breaks on video lottery terminals do not reduce money or time spent gambling
- Breaks in play without warning messages increase cravings to continue gambling
Some operators have already begun implementing forced breaks, which appear to increase safer gambling behaviours on their platforms.
In 2021 Norsk Tipping, a gaming company run by the government of Norway, increased the length of their mandatory break duration from 90 seconds to 15 minutes. This decision was based on research conducted by Norsk Tipping in 2020 to find a mandatory break duration with the best preventive effects and the least risk of negative channelling (channelling people who gamble to operators with fewer or no safer gambling tools in place). Researchers manipulated the durations of forced breaks experienced by over 20,000 people gambling on sports, slots, or bingo. After one hour of continuous gambling, people experienced a 90-second, 5-minute or 15-minute forced break. All three break durations were linked to decreases in money wagered in the hour after the break, indicating these breaks may help people reduce excessive wagering. On average, 15-minute mandatory breaks in play were followed by longer voluntary breaks, compared to 90-second mandatory breaks in play.
- A large real-world study testing different lengths of mandatory play breaks on gambling behaviour
- Responsible gaming: New knowledge, new tools, and new limits
In August 2021, European online gambling operator Skillonnet, introduced forced breaks to its platform. People who make 10 deposits into their gambling account on a single calendar day receive a 1-hour forced break, which appears to help reduce over-spending on the day of the break.
- The effect of a mandatory play break on subsequent gambling behavior among British online casino players: A large-scale real-world study
In New Zealand, all EGMs are required to interrupt play at irregular intervals, with interruptions occurring at least once every 30 minutes of continuous play. During this break, people are presented with information on the duration of their session, the amount of money they have spent, and their net wins and losses for the session.