Greener Gaming Products: Considering Environmental Impacts When Assessing Gambling-Related Harms
Carlson, Katie Margaret
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CitationCarlson, Katie Margaret. 2020. Greener Gaming Products: Considering Environmental Impacts When Assessing Gambling-Related Harms. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThe gaming (i.e., gambling) industry currently does not include environmental impacts in its assessment of new products. Advocates and researchers of problem gambling are actively changing their approach to understand all “gambling-related harms” but have yet to identify environmental impacts as an important human health risk. The existing field of research has argued that legal gambling should be viewed as a toxin from a public health perspective (Shaffer, LaBrie, & LaPlante, 2004). A public health perspective should include environmental impacts and the associated human health risks; however, this has not been the case for gaming in the US. We need to expand the gaming industry’s assessment focus to include environmental impacts, which arguably affects more of the world’s population than the 2.2% of problem gamblers in the United States (US) adult population (National Council on Problem Gambling, 2018).
This research looked at the environmental impacts of the most prevalent form of US gaming, Scratch-off tickets, compared to its likely future replacement, legal online electronic instant scratch-off tickets (E-Instants) to complement current social product assessment models. Lottery Scratch-off tickets are paper-based, pre-printed games with fixed odds typically sold in a retail location, while E-Instants are online versions sold via a mobile app or computer website. People in the US spent approximately $80 billion on state lotteries (Isidore, 2017) and $60 billion in combined commercial and Native American casinos (Marotta et al., 2017) in 2016. Out of that $80 billion in sales, Scratch-off tickets made up 61% of sales and was the primary growth driver in the US.
My main research question was: What are the significant environmental impacts of Scratch-off tickets and E-Instants? I hypothesized that one Scratch-off ticket game (five million tickets printed for a US lottery) had more substantial environmental impacts than an equivalent amount of E-Instant ticket sales.
To test this hypothesis, I conducted two separate attributional environmental life cycle assessments (LCA) using the OpenLCA software, the Ecoinvent database, USEEIO, and publicly available information on US lottery sales and contracts. I conducted a Monte Carlo simulation and uncertainty analysis and scenario-based sensitivity analyses. The resulting attributional LCAs were used to perform LCIAs using the TRACI 2.1 model and normalized to the US national average.
Overall, E-Instants showed significantly fewer impacts. The most substantial contribution to Scratch-off impacts was transportation by the player to the retailer. When this transportation was eliminated from the Scratch-off model, E-Instants had fewer total impacts but was comparable to Scratch-offs. Lotteries currently selling Scratch-offs can decrease impacts by looking deeper at impacts in the retail environment, increasing pack sizes to reduce shipping impacts, and avoiding landfilling paper products by instead recycling or incinerating paper products. Lotteries currently selling E-Instants can work with vendors to reduce the impacts from the software, platform, and central system operations. They can also watch their time-to-wager and balance the environmental impacts with social impact considerations. More work is needed to critically assess environmental impacts along with the social impacts of the products.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365013