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Tech Shock: Heather Wardle on gaming and gambling

In this week’s episode of the Tech Shock podcast, Vicki and Geraldine speak to Heather Wardle from Glasgow University, leading researcher on gaming and gambling, and author of Games Without Frontiers? The discussion focused on the overlap between gaming and gambling and whether this is leading to a generation of problem gamblers.

In an offline setting, there are clear restrictions on gambling. Online, the same rules don’t seem to apply. “If we think that there is a good reason to protect children from commercial forms of gambling,” Wardle asks, “why haven’t we got the same kind of protections in digital environments?”

The speed at which the online world changes means that creating robust legislation can be hard. 

“If we think about what we know about the forthcoming digital trends, there is going to be so much more fluidity about the types of currency we use – digital currency, cryptocurrency, in-game currency – and the value we attach to them,” she says. 

Our current definition of gambling is tied to physical currency, which Wardle believes is unhelpful when thinking about what we mean by gambling. 

“We need to consider what meaning and value the users put on the item [they are gambling with]. If they feel something has value, they are risking that value. We should look at how the item in question is being used, rather than the legal definition.”

So how do we respond to this issue? Wardle says that we should try to stop the problem at the source rather than dealing with the fallout. 

“No-one is born a gambler,” she says. “That behaviour is created and constructed through people's experiences.”

Listen to Series 3, Episode 14 to hear the full podcast.    

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