Are regulators winning with the responsible gambling approach?
For those involved in regulating the gambling industry two key questions are usually front
of mind. Firstly, what levers should regulators use and secondly whose behaviour should
The current dominant paradigm of gambling regulation is the Responsible Gambling
approach. The responsible gambling approach provides a framework for responsible
gambling policies and practices to be designed to prevent and reduce potential harms
associated with gambling. This approach focuses in the public health domain with
regulators using levers that mediate the negative impacts of the industry while focusing
the same levers on the behaviour of consumers.
As a governance framework for the regulation of gambling what are the strengths and
weaknesses of the reasonable gambling approach and where does the future lie for the
industry? These questions can only be answered through the assistance of effective and
targeted research. A recent scoping review published by researchers from Concordia
University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and published in Critical Gambling
Studies, has investigated these issues.
Responsible Gambling: A Scoping Review (2020) investigates both the articulation and
critique of the concept of responsible gambling in academic literature. It provides a good
starting point for reviewing the current evidence base on responsible gambling.
The scoping review notes while gambling has a strong history, gambling markets have
quickly evolved over the past 35 years. This increase in the size of the industry has
delivered a tax windfall to many governments, while concurrently creating a regulatory
burden. Public pressure has risen for both government and operators to protect
communities from the harm associated with gambling.
According to the researchers, the responsible gambling model has been developed
academically through research known as the Reno Model I-V. This model has sought to
place a framework around gambling that guides those governing gambling to be socially
responsible in their operations, while enabling personal freedom and personal choice to be
According to the Scoping Review the success of the Reno Model has been debated,
however, the one thing that is agreed upon is further intra and cross-disciplinary research
of it is required. The researchers’ note existing research has focused very strongly within
disciplines, while additionally it has focused on descriptive analysis rather than critical analysis.
A recommendation from the researchers’ and the key finding of the study is that further
studies critically analysing the impact of responsible gambling interventions and regulation
would be of great benefit to the academic knowledge bank on problem gambling. It would
also assist regulators in answering their two key questions, and fine tuning the levers used
to regulate and whose actions they are targeted.
The full scoping review can be found here.
Jennifer Reynolds - Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University
Sylvia Kairouz - Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University
Samantha Ilacqua - Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University
Martin French - Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University
Reynolds J., KairouzS., IlacquaS., & FrenchM. (2020). Responsible Gambling: A Scoping
Review. Critical Gambling Studies, 1(1), 23-39. Retrieved from