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Chapter One Need urgent help?

It’s the products not the people

The gambling industry frames the issue of gambling harm as one of individual responsibility. This obscures the role of harmful products and practices in causing harm and stigmatises the people who are harmed.

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The gambling industry tries to influence how the public and politicians think about gambling. The tactics they use are similar to how other harmful industries, such as tobacco and fossil fuels, operate.

Initiatives led by the gambling industry to promote ‘responsible’ or ‘safer’ gambling are not transparent about how addictive some products are, how the human brain is impacted, how misleading advertising is, or how they profit from the people who are most harmed. Instead, they ask their customers to make sure they gamble responsibly.

Gambling affects the lives of millions of people in the UK… it isn’t their fault.

The industry adds messages to its advertisements and spends millions of pounds each year on programmes to promote the idea of ‘responsible’ or ‘safer’ gambling. Commonly used messages include ‘Take Time to Think’ and ‘When the Fun Stops, Stop’. These hide the causes of harm and reinforce a message that individual customers are solely responsible for the harm they are experiencing and it is their job to fix their problem, rather than placing the onus on the industry to stop making harmful products.

The promotion of ‘safer gambling’ and ‘individual responsibility’ causes many people to misunderstand why they are being harmed, to feel abnormal for being harmed, and believe it is their fault. The stigma caused by the narratives of ‘safer gambling’ and ‘individual responsibility’ is harmful and it increases the suicide risk associated with gambling.

People don’t get addicted to products that aren’t addictive.  

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Stigma and discrimination

The promotion of individual responsibility is stigmatising and leads to prejudice. Stigma means that people experiencing harm often feel shame, which can act as a barrier for them to seek help.

The easiest way to help prevent stigma is to think about how your words and actions may impact someone who is in need of help and support.

Stigma does not just affect individuals. It can also be used to justify the way gambling is regulated and responded to by institutions and people who should support the individual who is harmed.

For more information on stigma and discrimination surrounding gambling harms please visit Tackling Gambling Stigma.

Gambling companies make a lot of money, and they’re not doing that by making lots of winners
Danny – in recovery from gambling addiction

The profits of gambling companies are solely generated from customer losses.
The business model is built on increasing the amount of money that customers lose, and gambling companies use many different tactics to make people start and stay gambling. In 2022–23, the UK gambling industry took £15.1 billion in customer losses.

The gambling industry targets those who are already harmed.
People who are harmed receive on average an incentive every day to gamble – mainly for the most highly addictive forms of gambling.

  • 86% of online betting products come from just 5% of customers

  • Nearly half of customers who play online slots, casino or bingo games are addicted or at risk