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Regulation of Synthetic Biology

BioBricks, Biopunks and Bioentrepreneurs

Alison McLennan

This book explores the interplay between regulation and emerging technologies in the context of synthetic biology, a developing field that promises great benefits, and has already yielded fuels and medicines made with designer micro-organisms. For all its promise, however, it also poses various risks. Investigating the distinctiveness of synthetic biology and the regulatory issues that arise, Alison McLennan questions whether synthetic biology can be regulated within existing structures or whether new mechanisms are needed.
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Alison McLennan

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Malgorzata A. Carran

‘You need a licence … you can easily extort people if there is no regulation’ (17, male) The Gambling Act 2005 represented a culmination of a dramatic shift in attitudes towards the gambling industry. The legal approach that discouraged gambling and permitted it only to the extent of meeting irrepressible demand was superseded by a framework that positioned it as a regulated but legitimate form of entertainment that can be driven by market forces and commercial stimulation. This was justified by the power of regulation deemed capable of ensuring sufficient protection of vulnerable groups from gambling-related harm. This chapter tests this ability. It examines regulatory principles and enforcement constraints against the background of social responsibility measures to prove that regulation alone is not able to adequately counterbalance the effects of liberalisation and normalisation imposed by the underlying legislation.

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Malgorzata A. Carran

‘It is probably not possible [as yet] to ensure that minors never play, but hopefully it will be achievable in the future’ (gambling industry representative) Robust age-verification measures are essential in protecting minors from premature initiation into gambling. The industry is required, under the threat of regulatory and criminal sanctions, to devise and implement policies that should effectively prevent underage access. Despite that, many children and young people continue to be able to engage in prohibited gambling. This chapter elucidates the social and legal reasons for this position and analyses existing age-verification methods. It exposes the weaknesses in the nature of the statutory and regulatory rules that dictate what the industry must do and highlights discrepancies between black letter laws and their practical interpretations. It calls for more emphasis on the need for the encouragement of wider responsibility amongst the general public to ensure that the efforts undertaken by legitimate licence holders are not undermined by parents, guardians or older friends who may directly or indirectly facilitate underage gambling.

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Mark D Griffiths

‘Because playing for money is more competitive and it brings out the worst in people, whereas games are more social’ (14, female) The omnipresence, technological convergence and increased sophistication of the online gaming industry has substantially blurred the boundaries between real money and fun gambling. This has prompted concerns that social gaming, demo games and gambling-like activities within video games increase minors’ propensity to gravitate towards real-money gambling. However, there continues to be a significant shortage of empirical data that considers the interrelationship between these different forms. Drawing from findings from qualitative focus groups carried out with 200 minors in secondary schools located in London and Kent, this chapter exposes how children and young people experience, construe and engage with different forms of digital entertainments and how they are affected by them.

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Malgorzata A. Carran

‘Isn’t there always a hot girl in or around advertisements’ (14, male) Advertising restrictions’ removal led to a natural but phenomenal expansion of gambling advertising. While claims that the commercial marketing of gambling products leads to harms are strongly contested, the UK legislation implicitly accepts that commercial stimulation of gambling amongst minors is undesirable. Their exposure is limited by requiring the industry to advertise in a manner that is ‘socially responsible’ and does not appeal to minors, and by timing and placement restrictions. This chapter provides a synthesis of existing data to prove that while the existing framework restrains the industry from acute exploitation of vulnerable persons, it does not effectively protect minors. Existing principles fail to eliminate the possibility of emotive appeal, do not address all advertising techniques, and still rely on the transmission theory that does not necessarily correspond to how minors receive, construct and react to such advertisements.

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Malgorzata A. Carran

Since the UK Gambling Act of 2005 was introduced, gambling has stopped being seen, politically and legally as an inherent vice and is now viewed as a legitimate form of entertainment. Gambling Regulation and Vulnerability explores the laws around gambling that aim to protect society and individuals, examining the differences between regulatory rhetoric and the impact of legislative and regulatory measures. Malgorzata Carran finds that although the Gambling Act introduced many positive changes to gambling regulation, it has created an environment in which protection of vulnerable individuals becomes difficult. Carran challenges the existing legislative premise that regulation alone is able to balance the effect of liberalisation for those who are vulnerable.
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Malgorzata A. Carran

‘I played, literary once I went through with twenty pounds and was like “Oh my God; I lost twenty pounds”’ (14, female) The legal definitions of gambling delimitate the overall scope of the Gambling Commission’s jurisdiction, but their statutory categorisation dictates the extent of social responsibilities that licensees must introduce and determines which forms are permitted to be accessed by minors. This chapter elucidates how gambling is defined in the current legal context and how it differs from popular and cultural understanding. The inclusions and exclusions are then scrutinised against the background of individual characteristics to prove that the Act’s division of gambling into ‘soft’, ‘medium’ and ‘hard’ forms is undesirable as it only partially corresponds to the relative riskiness of the different types of gambling products. It further exposes how definitions are underpinned by a narrow understanding of gambling-related harm and highlights unexpected consequences of legal categorisations.

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Malgorzata A. Carran

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Malgorzata A. Carran

‘My mum keeps crying but my dad will not ask for help, he says he doesn’t need it’ (17, female) The terms gambling-related harm and vulnerability to such harms are too frequently referred to with the implicit assumption that their meaning is understood consistently and their scope readily agreed upon. Yet, they represent a social construct with often fluid boundaries that is influenced and shaped by political and cultural discourses. This chapter exposes how the UK’s regulatory framework adopts, in substance, a narrow understanding of these two interrelated concepts that emphasises individual pathology at the expense of taking a wider and equal view of all the agents of vulnerability and all the dimensions of gambling-related harm. This, in turn, leads to an imbalance in what social responsibility initiatives become the focus of regulation, which, on the whole, marginalises those who may find themselves in the highest need of social protection.