Research Review: GREO

Regulatory Approaches to Reducing Harms from Online Gambling

Online gambling is expanding rapidly across the globe, allowing players uninterrupted access to both regulated and unregulated gambling platforms. There are several features of online gambling that are likely to increase the risk of gambling-related harm, including instant and around the clock availability, the solitary nature of online play, the use of credit and digital cash, and the opportunity for targeted marketing. Regulators have an important role to play in protecting consumers, families, and communities against harms related to online gambling. 

Research to inform action 

Research shows that people in different jurisdictions experience different harms with similar products, which suggests that the type of product itself is not solely responsible for gambling harms—the way a product is regulated is also an important factor. 

The following resources highlight emerging evidence that may inform innovative regulatory approaches to reducing harms from online gambling: 

Evidence-informed action 

In 2021, The Gambling Commission in Great Britain announced stricter measures for online slot game features. The rules include a ban on: features that speed up play or give the illusion of control; auto-play; slot spin speeds faster than 2.5 seconds; sounds or images that give the illusion of a win when the return is equal to, or below, a stake; and reverse withdrawals. Additionally, the rules require that operators clearly display total losses, wins, and time played to the player. 

iGaming launches in Ontario, Canada on Monday April 4th. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario recently released standards for game designs and features that will come into force in April 2022.  The requirements include that: game design should not give a player the perception that speed or skill affects the outcome of the game when it does not; clear indication of loss vs. win; pre-determined patterns must not change during play; games cannot display amounts or symbols that are unachievable​; free-to-play games must accurately represent the likelihood of winning and have the same odds as paid games; ​and the denomination of credits must be clearly displayed.  

In April 2020, The Gambling Commission (GB) also introduced a ban of credit card use for gambling online and offline, to further protect consumers and make it more difficult to gamble with borrowed money. An interim evaluation of the ban indicates the action is popular among consumers and has not resulted in harmful unintended consequences. Findings from a third-party evaluation of the policy change commissioned and managed by Greo in support of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms are expected by February 2023. 

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. Our services include sourcing and synthesizing evidence, creating knowledge and education products, facilitation and stakeholder engagement, data and knowledge management support, evaluation, and applied research.