Toward a public health approach for gambling related harm: A scoping document

Abstract

This scoping document considers the rationale for framing gambling related harm as a public health issue in Scotland. The report summarises the findings of a rapid scan of the literature and informal discussions with key stakeholders undertaken over a short time period between late April and early May 2016. It builds upon a 2014 ScotPHN review of the literature on public health interventions in relation to gambling related harm. This document does not provide a comprehensive or systematic review of legislation, policy, research and practice in relation to gambling and gambling related harm in Scotland; this is sorely needed. Rather, the report provides a brief overview of the key challenges and opportunities in this area. It is hoped that the report will be used as a platform to stimulate debate among stakeholders at local, regional and national levels, around what a public health approach to preventing gambling related harm in Scotland could, and should, look like.

These are uncertain times. As this report was being finalised a narrow majority of the UK population voted in favour of leaving the European Union in a national referendum. It is difficult to predict the impact of, or chain of events that might arise from, Brexit when, if, it occurs. Within the European Union the regulation of the gambling markets and advertising is largely a matter reserved to member states. The UK Government is the primary legislator in the regulation of gambling across the UK. It is unlikely then that Brexit would result in a significant change in the regulatory landscape or UK Government policy in relation to gambling in the near future, unless used to deliver further devolved powers to Scotland; the Scottish Government has long maintained that the regulation of all aspects of gambling and betting should be devolved.

In a climate of uncertainty, some may caution against the allocation of scarce public health resource to a highly contentious area like gambling with which the public health community in Scotland has historically had minimal engagement. However this could be viewed as an opportune time for the public health community in Scotland to reflect upon, and through open, inclusive, informed critical debate, reach a consensus on the place of gambling in our society and their role and responsibility in contribution to preventing gambling related harm in our communities.

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