What Metrics Are We Using to Define “Vulnerable”?

Responsible Gambling, Responsible Gaming

Oct 1, 2022

If you’ve spent any amount of time near the water coolers of life that discuss responsible gaming, problem gambling, or gambling disorder, you’ve surely heard a lot of talk surrounding the “vulnerable”.

And this is where I ask the following questions (numbered to make it easier to respond):

  1. What makes someone vulnerable? How are we defining it?
  2. Is vulnerability a fixed or fluid state? Could someone be vulnerable one day and not the next?
  3. Are there people that aren’t vulnerable? What makes them this way?
  4. Is there a scale to measure vulnerability? And is there a tipping point when someone should be concerned?

If you have a solid working definition and measurements of what makes someone vulnerable, please reach out and share it. However, I think most of us will realize we have been using the term without stopping to ask “What does that even mean?”

What I’ve Seen…

In the decade-plus of interacting and getting to know people that had their gambling impact their lives in a negative way, I see a common thread that made each vulnerable to becoming addicted. Across the board, there was:

  • personal struggle or conflict (family, work, friends, etc)
  • a big win or loss (and most often both) while gambling

The former is guaranteed throughout our lives and the latter is a possibility any time we take a risk. As I see it, everyone could be classified as vulnerable, just one spin or click away from checking both boxes listed above.

I believe this is the reality of “vulnerability” that needs to be discussed more frequently. Life could throw a curveball at any moment, thrusting someone from the shoreline deep into the unrelenting waves of the ocean. Discussing vulnerability in this way would simultaneously reduce stigma, while also providing education and insight into the inner workings of our thoughts and actions.

Contrast this view with the most frequently used framing which describes the vulnerable population as quite small and we have a dilemma on our hands that needs to be resolved.

Overall, I think this touches on a larger topic that needs to be discussed when it comes to the messaging around safer or responsible gambling. I believe the reason we see such poor uptake in the use of responsible gambling tools is that the person never believes addiction will happen to them.

And why should they when we can’t even define or describe what makes someone vulnerable?

Maybe we should pump the brakes on using this term…at least until we work to define it.

Jamie combined his professional background as a brand strategist with his experience as a former problem gambler to create dyve. He is also host of The After Gambling Podcast.

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