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Public Policy

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The Pathological Gambler as Criminal Offender: Comments on Evaluation and Treatment. Richard J. Rosenthal and Valerie C. Lorenz. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America (15:3, 647-660) September, 1992. The authors present an overview of what was known at the time about the relationship between criminal behavior and pathological gambling, including a discussion of the difference between a gambler who commits crimes and a criminal who gambles. Pointing out the high prevalence of problem gambling in prisons, they recommend a combination of treatment, restitution, community service, and monitoring as an alternative to prison sentences for those who commit crimes as a result of their gambling addiction.

Gambling and the Health of the Public: Adopting a Public Health Perspective David A. Korn and Howard J. Shaffer. Journal of Gambling Studies (15:4, 289-365) Winter, 1999. This extensive monograph provides a comprehensive structure for the consideration of problem gamblin as a public health question. They systematically outline major public health issues about the effects of gambling, including both costs and benefits. They outline three primary goals for enhancing public health, including prevention of gambling-related problems through public awareness, early identification, and provision of treatment; promotion of informed and balanced attitudes towards gamblers and gambling; and protection of vulnerable groups. The article concludes with an extensive discussion of strategies to achieve these goals.

Gambling Behavior of Louisiana Students in Grades 6 Through 12. James R. Westphal, Jill A. Rush, Lee Stevens, and Lera Joyce Johnson. Psychiatric Services (51:1, 96-99), January 2000. The article reports the results of a survey of over 12,000 Louisiana students, finding that 14 percent have never gambled, 70 percent gambled without problems, 10 percent indicated past year problem gambling, and 5.8 percent indicated past year pathological gambling as measured by the SOGS-RA. High levels of association were found with other risk behaviors, notably alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs. The authors recommend a "harm reduction model that informs students about the risks and symptoms of problem and pathological gambling and about treatment resources" as an alternative to prevention programs that attempt to delay the onset of gambling. They also suggest inclusion of problem gambling assessment as part of the assessment of "high-risk" youth and including gambling prevention as part of the treatment for delinquent and chemically dependent adolescents.

Casino Gambling in Switzerland: The Legal Situation, Politics and Prospects for Prevention and Harm Reduction. Daniela Dombrowski, Ambros Uchtenhagen, JŸrgen Rehm. The Electronic Journal of Gambling Issues. Issue 4, May 2001. With the first casinos scheduled to open in Switzerland in the fall of 2001, the government was faced with how best to deal with the potential increase in demand for services relating to problem gambling. This article describes a new approach to public policy that requires bidders for casino franchises to "submit a fully developed Îsocial conceptâ that includes detailed prevention measures for dealing with people with gambling problems, staff training and evaluation research, which an independent advisory board will control." Potential casino operators will be judged by the quality of these proposals as part of the contract award process.

Gambling and the Health of the Public: Adopting a Public Health Perspective. David A. Korn and Howard J. Shaffer. Journal of Gambling Studies. 15(4) 289-365. Winter 1999. This comprehensive monograph advocates an examination of gambling and problem gambling from the perspective of net impact on public health. The authors argue that a public health perspective "addresses all levels of prevention as well as treatment and rehabilitation issues." They outline a comprehensive public health action plan with a focus on prevention, promotion of mental health, and the fostering of personal and social responsibility, and provide an extensive list of "key actions" to be taken to further these goals.

On the Shoulders of Merton: Potentially Sobering Consequences of Problem Gambling Policy. Bo J. Bernhard and Frederick W. Preston. American Behavioral Scientist. 47(11) 1395-1405. July 2004. Robert Merton's theory of unintended consequences points out the difference between the subjective motivation for an action and the objective results of that action. Bernhard and Preston apply the theory to problem gambling policy, illustrating instances where policies designed to help problem gamblers instead make problems worse. Among the examples they cite: requiring the display of money lost or won rather than "available credits" on gaming machines might encourage chasing behavior, while mandatory casino closing times could lead to frenzied episodes of binge gambling. They conclude that "because of the potential for exacerbation, any safety devices that are implemented need to be informed, ideally by carefully crafted theory and research."

 A Science-Based Framework for Responsible Gambling: The Reno Model. Alex Blaszczynski, Robert Ladouceur, Howard Shaffer. Journal of Gambling Studies 20:3, 301-317. Fall 2004. The goal of this ambitious position paper is to “outline a strategic framework, or blueprint for action, to advance and coordinate efforts to limit gambling-related problems.” They believe that any program should rest on two principles: First, the decision to gamble rests with the individual, and, second, the individual needs the proper information to make this choice. The gambling industry, by extension, cannot knowingly exploit or take advantage of its customers, and should provide accurate and relevant information to help their patrons make an intelligent decision. The authors conclude by identifying 10 critical areas of research that they urge be done under the auspices of a global coalition of all key stakeholders.

 Informed Choice and Gambling: Principles for Consumer Protection. Alex Blaszczynski, Robert Ladouceur, Lia Nower, Howard J. Shaffer. Prepared for the Australian Gaming Council. November 2005. Responsible gaming invites a question: whose responsibility is it? The authors seek to clarify the relative roles of personal responsibility and the role of the gambling industry. The principal responsibility of industry, they argue, is to provide all the relevant information consumers need to make a fully informed decision about whether to gamble, where to gamble, and how much and when to gamble. This information needs to address three overlapping audiences. First, the general public should be educated on the potential risks of gambling and the realities of probability and randomness. Gamblers need information heightening self-awareness of their play (particularly those who gamble for non-entertainment reasons), information on the odds and returns of specific games, and information correcting erroneous beliefs. Finally, problem gamblers need information on resources, strategies for changing behavior, and guidelines as to the relative “health” of their behavior.