Overview

Gamgard identifies how risky a proposed (or established) game is likely to be for a vulnerable player. By examining the specific risk features of a game it is possible to pinpoint exactly where the problematic elements of a game lie. Risk features can be amended to maintain a responsible balance between excitement and overall risk.

Prevention is always better than cure, and focusing responsible gaming initiatives towards vulnerable players is an effective method for reducing the development of problematic play in a player population.

Gamgard works by examining the structural and situational characteristics or 'risk factors' that constitute the psychologically rewarding aspects of the game, and responsible gaming features that can directly influence how a game is played.

Structural characteristics are typically those features of a game that are responsible for reinforcement, may satisfy gamblers' needs and may (for some ‘vulnerable’ players) facilitate excessive gambling. By identifying particular structural characteristics it is possible to see how needs are identified, to see how information about gambling is perceived, and to see how thoughts about gambling are influenced. Showing the existence of such relationships has great practical importance as potentially ‘risky’ forms of gambling can be identified.

Situational characteristics are typically those that get people to gamble in the first place. These characteristics are primarily features of the environment and can be considered the situational determinants of gambling. Some situational characteristics overlap with structural characteristics. For example, the accessibility of the gambling activity can determine both the ease with which a game is accessed (situational) as well as how the game appears, and is experienced (structural).

Responsible gaming features may in some cases directly influence how players play an actual game. For example, behavioural feedback that alerts players of risky changes in their playing profile, the use of pop-up warnings, player defined time and spending limits can all directly impact player behavior. These are distinct from more generic responsible gaming features, that while still useful, may not directly impact a specific game risk. For example, education about playing responsibly, self-exclusion for people who may already have problems etc.

Gamgard allows game developers and responsible gaming staff to easily identify these characteristics and determine the extent to which each one has an effect on the overall risk rating of the game. By examining each characteristic in this way it is possible to build a game that falls within acceptable tolerances, or to adapt elements of an existing game.

Gamgard displays the results in three bands: low risk (green), medium risk (yellow) and high risk (red). A classification of red does not mean that a game should be scrapped but indicates that there are elements of it that need modifying, or additional responsible gaming features need to be put in place (e.g., limit the availability or spend limit of a game).

Gamgard is easy to use by anyone who has access to the specific features of a particular game (e.g., time it takes to play, prize-back percentage etc.), and access to our secure website. The necessary figures are inputted onto our interactive model for instant results. Parameters can then be changed to observe the overall effect on the risk rating. All data can be saved and printed to provide documentation of the entire process.

Gamgard is updated regularly to take into account any new developments in research and/or gambling technology, and as such allows a gaming company to be as informed as is possible about the potential impact of a game based on its design characteristics. However, problem gambling is a complicated psychological and social issue and whilst such measures can help to minimize harm to vulnerable individuals, they can never prevent everyone from engaging in excessive patterns of gambling behavior. Gamgard specifically focuses upon the design characteristics of the game itself, and should always be used in conjunction with an overall responsible gaming strategy that considers the broader context in which any particular game is offered.

1 Any person with either a biological, psychological / emotional pre-disposition to gamble excessively, or for those players whose personal circumstances may put them at a greater risk of developing gambling problems (e.g., low income individuals, those with co-morbid disorders, recovering problem gamblers etc.)

Gamgard identifies how risky a proposed (or established) game is likely to be for a vulnerable player. By examining the specific risk features of a game it is possible to pinpoint exactly where the problematic elements of a game lie. Risk features can be amended to maintain a responsible balance between excitement and overall risk.

Prevention is always better than cure, and focusing responsible gaming initiatives towards vulnerable players is an effective method for reducing the development of problematic play in a player population.

Gamgard has been in continuous use for the last 10 years and has been utilised by more than xx major gaming companies in xx different countries.

Gamgard was originally developed in the UK in 2006 By Dr Richard Wood and Dr Mark Griffiths working with Camelot Plc, and with input from an international advisory team comprising 20 expert responsible gaming researchers and clinicians from the US, Canada, Australia, and Germany. By examining the available evidence world-wide, it was possible to develop a tool that utilised the most-up-to-date findings about the impact of the specific elements of a game for influencing vulnerable players.

In order to more fully understand what was known, world-wide, about the impact of structural and situational characteristics on the behavior of vulnerable players, the project employed The Delphi Method. Delphi utilizes a structured process for collecting and distilling knowledge from a group of experts by means of a series of questionnaires interspersed with controlled opinion feedback(2) Delphi has been shown to be a successful technique for facilitating communication between a group of experts, and assists the formation of a well informed group judgement.(3) The Delphi method has been extensively used to generate reliable forecasts in technology, education, and other fields. (4)

GAM-GaRD was initially tested against 40 existing games and the findings accurately reflected the known impact of those games in terms of their association with problem gambling behavior. Now in its 3rd major developmental stage, Gamgard V3.0 was most recently updated with input from 20 leading researchers, 20 problem gambling clinicians and incorporated feedback from 20 people who had recovered from a severe gambling problem. Most notably V3.0 now considers the impact of responsible gambling tools that have been empirically shown to lower the risk of gambling type games.

2 (Adler & Ziglio, 1996) 3 (Helmer, 1977) 4 (Cornish, 1977)

Dr Richard Wood is a Chartered Psychologist and has been studying gaming behavior for over 18 years during which time he has worked for both The International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University (UK) and The International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors at McGill University in Montreal (Canada). As a consequence of his research, Dr Wood has published numerous gambling related articles, has presented his findings at conferences and seminars around the world, and undertaken many responsible gaming consultations for both the gaming industry and regulatory sectors. His research focuses on both the individual causes of problem gambling, as well as the structural characteristics of games that can influence the gambling behavior of vulnerable players. Dr Wood is the President of GamRes Limited an independent international research and consultancy business that manages gamgard.

Dr Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Europe’s only Professor of Behavioural Addiction (Nottingham Trent University). He has won several international prizes in the area outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research. He has published over 200 refereed research papers, published a number of books on the psychology of gambling, numerous book chapters and has over 550 other non-refereed publications to his name. He has served as a member on a number of national and international committees (e.g. European Association for the Study of Gambling, British Psychological Society Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and was former National Chair of GamCare.

Gamgard is part of the Positive Play initiative