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Safer Gambling Weekly Round-Up, by Dam Mad Media

It may be the week before Christmas, but it hasn’t been quiet in the world of Safer Gambling.

UK Gambling Review

Headlines continue to be made concerning the review of the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act, with Iain Duncan Smith launching another attack on the gambling industry.

Duncan Smith is one of the more outspoken members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (APPG) and writing on PoliticsHome, he stressed that he and the Group very much welcome the review.

His primary focus seems to be the abolition of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), which he attacked earlier in the year as being “not fit for purpose”. The UKGC has launched a number of initiatives including a crackdown on VIP schemes, but this doesn’t go far enough according to the former Tory leader.

“We need a regulatory body that independently monitors the industry,” wrote Duncan Smith.

“VIP schemes should be banned outright — and not just for younger gamblers aged under 26-years.

He also stressed that “the gambling industry is in dire need of a reset. It must be made to understand the extent of the responsibilities it holds in order that the public can be better served.”

He went on to say that the APPG has many stories of “gambling ruining young people’s lives” and that these should be fed into the review.

Earlier this week, the UK Government published its Online Harms Bill white paper, which will see Ofcom become the regulator of online content. The Bill will force tech companies to bear more responsibility for their online environments and Ofcom could also block sites deemed to offer insufficient protection against harm.

Online companies will be placed under a duty of care to their users, in proposals very similar to the ones we have heard concerning the 2005 Gambling Review. Considering the role of the UKGC is also under scrutiny, these wider developments on the digital ecosystem should certainly be watched closely. It is important to note, however, that this issue is very complex and there is much to be said for engaging with the Government on the proposals.

Moving to Spain and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs will launch another public consultation on how to make online gambling both safer and fairer for consumers, particularly younger people.

It will assess whether operators are collecting all player data necessary to ensure their protection, as well as focusing on safeguarding standards such as action, intervention, control, prevention, the raising of awareness and treatment.

All of this has a strong effect on gambling marketing, and this was investigated in an in-depth piece from Scott Longley published on iGB on Tuesday.

The article assesses a number of markets including the UK, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Sweden to highlight how increasing regulation and COVID-19 have changed the marketing landscape.

Furthermore, having a greater range of marketing approaches, as well as increased flexibility and personalisation, is seen as key in navigating the new rules and regulations.

Charity News

On Thursday, it was announced that three organisations dedicated to raising awareness of responsible gambling have joined forces. GamCare, GamBan and Gamstop have launched a new 12-month initiative called TalkBanStop.

TalkBanStop aims to offer free tools to help those who are struggling with managing their betting behaviour, with the Christmas period cited as a time of particular concern. All three organisations have been worried about increases in online gambling activity brought about by COVID lockdowns, and the TalkBanStop website offers easy to digest advice on how to manage gambling activity as well as a link to each of their services.

Support will also be offered through GamCare’s National Gambling Helpline, GamBan’s blocking software and Gamstop’s self-exclusion programme.

The launch of this pilot scheme comes at the same time as former footballer Michael Chopra speaks with Chris Gilham about their shared experience of gambling addiction and their recovery processes.

GamCare CEO Anna Hemmings said: “There is support out there to help you make empowered choices about your recovery, and we urge anyone suffering in silence to be inspired by Michael and Chris. They show it can happen to anyone, but if they can get through it, so can you.”

This news followed the announcement that GamCare had been named ‘organisation of the year’ by penal reform group The Howard League in their annual community awards.

The awards recognise the most effective charities in the UK working in areas which overlap with the criminal justice system (CJS). GamCare were commended for their work in helping authorities recognise gambling as a mental disorder and how this can result in the victims committing crime.

GamCare work closely with counselling services Breakeven and The Beacon Trust with the aim of increasing awareness and understanding of problem gambling disorders amongst the CJS.

Praising this collaborative approach, the Howard League said: “The link between gambling and crime has been established for some time; in fact, it was a former probation worker who founded GamCare after working with young people adversely impacted by gambling.”

GamCare has given access to its resources to all CJS employees and management, as well as expanding training to help staff spot signs of gambling-related harm and addictive behaviour. They have also worked with the Howard League’s Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling to create this report which focuses on the link between problem gambling and crime.

YGAM have also had a busy week, selecting former Watford, Bolton and Burnley player Marvin Sordell as their first-ever ambassador.

His work with the charity will focus on mental health, providing insights for the charity’s educational programmes. This builds on Sordell’s other work in this area with CALM and the FA/Heads Together-led Heads Up initiative.

Speaking about the opportunity, Sordell said: “I’m delighted to become an ambassador for YGAM. This is a fantastic charity led by some inspirational people… I joined the YGAM away day a few months ago and I was blown away by the passion and enthusiasm of everyone that works to deliver their education programmes.

“It’s amazing to see teachers, parents, youth workers and people with lived experience come together to safeguard future generations. It is very pleasing to see education around mental health form such a pivotal part of their resources. I’ve also been really impressed with their collaborations with football club community trusts and I’m looking forward to supporting their great work.”

YGAM have also increased their collaborative work by forming a new partnership with suicide-prevention charity PAPYRUS.

The two organisations will share educational workshops and resources to help young people understand the risks of gambling-related harm and how those risks can become life-threatening.

Professionals at YGAM have received PAPYRUS ‘SP-ARK training’ to help them approach complex discussions surrounding suicide, depression and issues surrounding mental health.

PAPYRUS, meanwhile, have received YGAM’s training on gambling-related harm enabling them to spot problematic behaviours and addictions.

Safer Online Gambling Group

Finally, the Safer Online Gambling Group have received £40,000-worth of funding to help them develop digital tools to help reduce problem gambling behaviour. They intend to launch their first digital solution by the end of March.

Backing has come from the Inclusive Recovery Fund, in partnership with Comic Relief and UnLtd, as well as the DCMS.

SOGG are a non-profit organisation which has lobbied for the reduction of FOBT stakes and the introduction of gambling clinics inside the NHS.

Director Adam Bradford said: “The funding is fantastic news. It means we can more effectively evaluate and scale up our work to help treat problem gambling behaviour more quickly through a range of digital tools.

“I know first-hand just how devastating the effects out of control online gambling can be on the wider family. This funding will help us make a huge difference where individuals are showing signs of problematic gambling.”

Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media