With a gambling ban against addiction and over-indebtedness

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 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)

Since 2000, Switzerland has had a statutory gambling ban. This can be applied for voluntarily by those affected or ordered by casinos and lotteries in order to prevent over-indebtedness. A study by the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts has investigated whether this gambling ban is an effective measure to protect players and how it affects the gambling behavior and quality of life of those affected. The study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

In Switzerland, casinos and operators of online gambling are obliged to exclude players who are over-indebted, fail to meet their financial obligations or risk stakes that are too high in relation to their income. In addition to this ban imposed by providers, those affected can also apply for a voluntary ban. Researchers at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU) have now investigated the effectiveness of this protective measure and found that a gambling ban can reduce the negative consequences of problematic gambling behavior.

Long-term survey of those affected

To investigate the effect of the ban, the team surveyed around 240 study participants a total of three times at six-month intervals. These included both banned and non-banned players from both the land-based and online casino sectors. Furthermore, the gambling suspensions of the study participants were both voluntary and ordered.

Less addiction and less debt

The initial survey of the banned study participants took place immediately after the gambling ban came into effect and showed that, on average, they had significantly lower incomes and were more likely to exhibit addictive behavior than the non-banned study participants. After six months, changes were noticeable in the banned players. The frequency of gambling decreased, the financial situation stabilized and a reduction in gambling addiction symptoms was observed. In contrast, there were no significant changes in the gambling behavior of non-banned players.

"This means that a gambling ban had an effect on those affected, both in terms of addiction and over-indebtedness," says Suzanne Lischer, head of the study. However, these improvements were only seen after a ban of six months. The longer the duration of the lockdown, the greater the positive effect. "A shorter ban period does not appear to be enough to positively influence a problematic gambling relationship," concludes the prevention and health promotion expert. However, those affected can apply for the voluntary ban to be lifted after just three months. The gambling ban also had another positive effect: the subjective well-being of those study participants who were banned for the entire period increased significantly.

Loss minimization more important

However, the study also showed that some of the banned players switched to gambling that is not part of the overarching banning system, such as online gambling from providers based abroad. Despite this migration, the positive effect of the gambling ban outweighs the negative. Suzanne Lischer knows: "Harm-reduction measures are not aimed at abstinence, but offer a framework for affected people to improve their problematic behavior." The HSLU study has now shown for the first time that gambling suspension can be an effective instrument for this in Switzerland.