Bioethics Blogs

Guest Post: “Gambling should be fun, not a problem”: why strategies of self-control may be paradoxical.

Written by Melanie Trouessin

University of Lyon

Faced with issues related to gambling and games of chance, the Responsible Gambling program aims to promote moderate behaviour on the part of the player. It is about encouraging risk avoidance and offering self-limiting strategies, both temporal and financial, in order to counteract the player’s tendency to lose self-control. If this strategy rightly promotes individual autonomy, compared with other more paternalist measures, it also implies a particular position on the philosophical question of what is normal and what is pathological: a position of continuum. If we can subscribe in some measures of self-constraint in order to come back to a responsible namely moderate and controlled gambling, it implies there is not a huge gulf or qualitative difference between normal gaming and pathological gambling.

If self-constraint measures already existed (for instance, self-exclusion from casinos), the innovative thing with Responsible Gambling is that it does not subscribe anymore in a prohibitionist strategy. This change is partly due to the change in public policy and the advent of “harm reduction” which aims to help drug users and behavioural addicts not to stop their addiction but to control it. This change is clearly linked when the traditional disease view of addiction began to be challenged: if you think that addiction is a chronic relapsing disease (as brain disease view thinks, but not only), you can only advocate abstinence for recovering addiction. For instance, in the AA literature, the former alcoholics are never cured but they only can be abstinent. A controlled drinking is not a possibility because they think the slogan “once an addict, always an addict” is true and that, with only one drink, you can relapse and be an addict again.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.