The problem with ‘responsible gambling’: impact of government and industry discourses on feelings of felt and enacted stigma in people who experience problems with gambling


Government and industry communications to gamblers often focus on promoting responsible gambling, which incorporate a range of gambler behaviors. These include limit setting, maintaining control, being informed about the chances of winning and self-monitoring. However, there have been no empirical examinations of the effect that responsible gambling discourses have on people with gambling problems.

We conducted qualitative interviews with 26 people with experience of gambling problems who were involved in peer support and advocacy activities.

A number of themes arose from participants narratives. Participants perceived that responsible gambling discourses contributed to the felt and enacted stigma associated with problem gambling by focusing on personal responsibility. They also perceived that responsible gambling discourses created norms which led to personal blame and shame, and contributed to broader negative stereotypes of people with gambling problems. Participants also perceived that responsible gambling discourses had limited impact on either their own gambling behavior or help seeking.

We conclude that discourses which focus on responsible gambling may have a negative and potentially stigmatizing impact for people experiencing gambling problems.

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