Tuesday 13 September 2022

Low risk gambling guidelines

Canada is swiftly becoming nearly as much of a lost cause as Australia, liberty-wise. That the Canadian 'public health' racket is out of control was shown recently when the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction recommended that the drinking guidelines be reduced to two drinks per week. Yes, that's per week, not per day. The Canadian government also plans to put health warnings on each individual cigarette from next year.

I recently discovered that Canada also has 'lower risk gambling guidelines'. I haven't heard of this concept anywhere else in the world. There are ways of diagnosing problem gambling, but this is the first time I've come across general advice to the population to help people avoid becoming a problem gambler.

The government boasts that its guidelines are based on "the most current scientific evidence available". I'd be interested to see this evidence because it seems to me that the guidelines have been rectally sourced. They are: 
1: Gamble no more than 1% of household income
2: Gamble no more than 4 days per month
3: Avoid regularly gambling at more than 2 types of games
Moreover, if you have "problems from alcohol, cannabis or other drug use", you should gamble even less than this and preferably not at all. 

I suppose problem gamblers break all three of these rules on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean that you or I will become a problem gambler if we break any of them. 
Since the 'harm' associated with being a problem gambler comes from losing more money than you afford, sticking to the first of these tips (Gamble no more than 1% of household income) is guaranteed to prevent all 'gambling-related harm'. They are therefore not 'low-risk' gambling guidelines. They are zero-risk gambling guidelines.

How useful and evidence-based are they? The academics who created them identified several traits of problem gamblers, such as a tendency to engage in various different forms of gambling, and are trying to steer people away from them. But isn't this the tail wagging the dog? Problem gamblers play different games because they gamble at every opportunity. They are problem gamblers, after all. Can we really reverse cause and effect and assume that if someone sticks to one or two forms of gambling, they won't become a problem gambler? 
Can we assume that a problem gambler will pay any attention to these guidelines at all? They are about as much use as telling people to drink no more than two drinks a week. As with the drinking guidelines, the only people who will abide by them are people who are never going to run into trouble in the first place.

One of the covert purposes of constantly reducing the drinking guidelines is to inflate the number of 'hazardous drinkers’ in society, thereby creating demand for action from politicians. But hazardous drinking isn’t a proper clinical concept. If your doctor thinks you’re drinking too much you might get given a questionnaire to assess ‘harmful drinking’ - which is a clinical concept - but the questions have nothing to do with 14 units a week in the UK (or whatever arbitrary figure has been picked elsewhere). 

With problem gambling rates currently at the very low level of 0.2% in Britain, the concept of 'at risk' gambling has already been adopted to come up with a scarier figure. How long before the UK introduces low risk gambling guidelines and uses estimates from it, which will presumably run into the millions, to get an even bigger number?

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