The aim of this report is to review evidence and theory regarding the gambling product through its structural characteristics (i.e., the ‘agent’ component of the epidemiological triangle). By providing a better understanding of structural characteristics, stakeholders should be better equipped to promote and evaluate responsible gambling and harm-minimisation strategies.
Structural characteristics are essentially the building blocks of a gambling game. They are the basis for their differential appeal depending on how they satisfy different needs for different consumers. They combine with environmental and individual factors to determine both positive and negative outcomes of gambling participation. Structural characteristics vary considerably from game to game and evolve quickly in response to changes in technology; this renders associated policymaking challenging.
The report is structured to consider categories of structural characteristics. Within each section we consider the theory and evidence concerning the possible links between characteristics and gambling problems, together with potential implications for specific interventions that may merit consideration by regulators and commercial gambling providers.
Evidence and theory in relation to structural characteristics in gambling is among the most inadequate in gambling studies. This probably reflects the inherent methodological challenges in executing ecologically valid research, rather than a lack of will. This report brings together a desk-top review of existing theory and evidence on some of the key issues in this area. It draws out implications for harm
prevention and reduction, and considers options for further research. The National Responsible Gambling Strategy (p.15, RGSB, 2016) states that ‘it is important that desirable practical action is not inhibited by unrealistic expectations about perfect information’, and on that basis, we recommend areas for policy considerations.