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Player protection tools – what are they for?

Definition social responsibility and gambling

Social responsibility has always been an integral part of work for gambling businesses in the UK and beyond. As the industry has evolved and new technologies have maximised customer engagement, player protection and consumer safeguarding also has grown more advanced and sophisticated.

Player protection tools are a vital element for consumer empowerment but require a well thought out approach to supplement them. They serve to not only minimise gambling-related harm but also to prevent it.

GamCare have worked with several businesses who are interested in not just meeting the regulatory requirements but exceeding them. As part of this, it is important to look at academic research providing the basis for specific tools.

Breaks in Play

The concept behind breaks in play is to stop dissociation in its tracks. Dissociation is when people disconnect from the world around them, and within gambling, the issue of dissociation is very common. When using breaks in play, research has suggested that best practice is to include a responsible gambling message within this break (Blaszczynski et al., 2015).


As mentioned, the experience of dissociation is common within gambling, and another tool that was designed to potentially interrupt dissociative episodes is the usage of messaging. Messaging can take many forms:

  1. Static vs. Dynamic Messaging: Research has found that pop-up messaging (dynamic messages), is drastically more effective when it comes to recall, as 83% of study participants could remember message content vs. 15.6% of participants who received a static message (Monaghan and Blaszczynski, 2007).
  2. Informative Messaging: To increase informed decision making, it is important to provide factual information that will dispel myths, biases, and irrational thoughts. Although this type of messaging might not change behaviour, it increases informed decision making (Hing 2004).
  3. Self-Appraising Messaging: Autonomy, which is a person’s ability to make decisions for themselves, is a central need for all human beings. When it comes to messaging players regarding their gambling behaviour, research has found that when these messages support a player’s right to make their own decisions, this can positively affect their thoughts, behaviour, and awareness of gambling activity (Monaghan and Blaszczynski, 2010).
  4. Monetary and Time-Based Pop-up Messaging: When a player experiences dissociation, their risk of overspending their financial limit and exceeding their time limit increases. Stewart and Wohl (2013) found that when pop-up messaging was used to share knowledge surrounding the player’s money, 89.66% of players opted to stick to their pre-set limit compared to participants who did not receive said messaging (43.33%).
  5. ‘Is This Normal?’ Messaging: Known as Personal Normative Feedback (PNF) this type of messaging looks to provide feedback about a player’s behaviour by trying to change perceptions about normal levels of play. For example, research done by Auer and Griffiths (2015 a, b) found that not only do PNF messages reduce irrational beliefs, but also disfunctional behaviour across different levels of problem gambling severities. For example, they used a PNF messaging in their research that read: “We would like to inform you that you’ve played 1000 slot games. Only a few people play more than 1000 slot games. The chances of winning do not increase with the duration of session. Taking a break often helps, and you can choose the duration of the break”.

Limit Setting

The idea behind limit setting is that when a person is experiencing higher levels of emotional arousal, they are less like to make informed decisions as their ability to self-regulate and control themselves, has dissipated (Blaszczynski, A., Parke, A.J., Parke, J., and Rigbye, J. L. 2014). If a person can then create both time and money limits prior to their play, the goal then is that they are making this decision at a time when they are regulated and not yet emotionally aroused.

A key red flag for the development of problematic gambling behaviour is when players exceed both time and money limits. When a player loses the ability to stick to their time or money limits, this can indicate a loss of control (Harris and Griffiths, 2017). Broda et al. (2008) therefore suggests that “limit setting is best used as a preventative measure versus an intervention for those who are already experiencing a problem with gambling”.

Personalising Feedback

Being able to interact with your customers by giving them personalised, transparent, and motivating feedback taps into what’s called ‘Motivational Interviewing’. Technology has enhanced a business’s ability to track player data, and when players are given personalised feedback, this can shine a light on their behaviour, which in turn might result in behaviour change (Auer and Griffiths, 2013a, b).

Many of these tools are well known to industry, but sometimes the principles underlying them can be overlooked. It is clear there is still some way to go for research and methods for reducing and preventing gambling-related harm. Many businesses are now using machine learning and algorithms in order to safeguard consumers, and technology promises to make gambling safer and futureproof customers from problematic play.

GamCare welcome developments in technology and innovation; they are a necessary function in the evolution of the gambling industry. But we are also aware that human contact has a very specific role to play in terms of player protection and engagement.

Find out more about Motivational Interviewing

GamCare offer training packages for businesses on how to interact with customers and identify people at risk from experiencing gambling harm.

See our training
    • Auer, M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2013a). Behavioral tracking tools, regulation, and corporate social responsibility in online gambling. Gambling Law Review and Economics. doi:10.1089/glre.2013.1784.
    • Auer, M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2013b). Voluntary limit setting and player choice in the most in-tense online gamblers: An empirical study of gambling behaviour. Journal of Gambling Studies, 29, 647–660. doi:10.1007/s10899-012-9332-y.
    • Blaszczynski, A., Parke, A.J., Parke, J., and Rigbye, J. L. (2014). Operator-Based Approaches to Harm Minimisation: Summary, Review and Future Directions. London: The Responsible Gambling Trust.
    • Blaszczynski, A., Cowley, E., Anthony, C., & Hinsley, K. (2015). Breaks in play: Do they achieve intended aims? Journal of Gambling Studies. doi:10.1007/s10899-015-9565-7.
    • Broda, A., LaPlante, D. A., Nelson, S. E., LaBrie, R. A., Bosworth, L. B., & Shaffer, H. J. (2008). Virtual harm reduction efforts for internet gambling: Effects of deposit limits on actual internet sports gambling behaviour. Harm Reduction Journal. doi:10.1186/1477-7517-5-27.
    • Harris, A., & Griffiths, M. D. (2017). A Critical Review of the Harm-Minimisation Tools Available for Electronic Gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 33, 187-221.
    • Hing, N. (2004). The efficacy of responsible gambling measures in NSW clubs: The gamblers’ perspective. Gambling Research, 16(1), 32–46.
    • Monaghan, S., & Blaszczynski, A. (2007). Recall of electronic gaming machine signs: A static versus a dynamic mode of presentation. Journal of Gambling Issues, 20, 253–268.
    • Monaghan, S., & Blaszczynski, A. (2010b). Impact of mode of display and message content of responsible gambling signs for electronic gaming machines on regular gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26, 67–88.
    • Stewart, M. J., & Wohl, M. J. A. (2013). Pop-up messages, dissociation, and craving: How monetary limit reminders facilitate adherence in a session of slot machine gambling. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 27(1), 268–273. doi:10.1037/a0029882.