Harm reduction and electronic gambling machines: Does this pair make a happy couple or is divorce foreseen?

Abstract

Recent empirical studies have evaluated if modifying electronic gambling machine (EGM) structural features could encourage safer gambling behaviors and decrease gambling-related problems. Several of these studies refer to Harm Reduction (HR), suggesting that the HR paradigm is useful to design, implement and test the efficacy of various prevention and treatment programs applied to EGM users. After reviewing the origins of HR and specifying its operational definition, this paper discusses the relevance of the HR framework for the study of measures related to EGM use and gambling in general. Examples are given to illustrate the arguments. The results show that HR has been over-inclusive in the field of gambling. A specific and operational definition and application of the HR framework is required for HR to be useful for the advancement of research in the gambling field.

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