NHS

As reported in this newsletter a few weeks ago, it has been confirmed that the NHS will cut all funding from the gambling sector on 1 April.

In an open letter to GambleAware Chief Executive Zoë Osmond, NHS Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch confirmed the decision. GambleAware currently co-fund RET programs and gambling clinics in the UK, but have been told that the ‘current dual commissioning and funding arrangement’ will be axed.

“We are very grateful to GambleAware for the funding that you have provided over the last 3 years, which has allowed us to roll out treatment services faster than would have otherwise been possible. However, as these become part of normal recurrent spending commitment and the number of clinics is expanded, we want to move the funding into general NHS funding, as is standard for other similar services,” Murdoch stated.

“Our decision has been heavily influenced by patients who have previously expressed concern about using services paid for directly by industry. Additionally, our clinicians feel there are conflicts of interest in their clinics being part-funded by resources from the gambling industry,” Murdoch continued.

The NHS said they would have a ‘constructive relationship’ with GambleAware while the changes are implemented.

The NHS has highlighted an increased demand for their clinics and will launch two new centres in May, in Southampton and Stoke-on-Trent. This will take the total number of clinics across the UK to seven.

The NHS also aims to install a Gambling Harm Network and Clinical Reference Group towards the end of 2022 with the aim of consolidating ‘expertise together’ and allowing clinicians to discuss best practice when it comes to the treatment of gambling-related harm.

Murdoch said: “Gambling addiction is a cruel mental health condition that can devastate people’s lives – our pilot clinics are already having a lasting impact in helping people to take back vital control of their lives. The opening of two new gambling clinics in May, as a part of our £2.3 billion investment into mental health services, will mean we can help even more people with the most serious gambling problems.”

The fallout from the news has been widespread across the industry, with iGamingFuture analysing why the cord has been cut from a project which has delivered significant results. It’s an essential and comprehensive read.

Kindred Group

The other main story this week concerns the review of the 2005 Gambling Act, with Kindred Group writing an open letter to UK legislators requesting “evidence-based debate” on gambling-related harm.

The letter has been sent to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gambling-Related Harm and Peers for Gambling Reform, and uses Kindred as an example of how data can be used to provide accurate information on the reality of problem gambling.

In being transparent about the percentage of their revenue which comes from problem gamblers, Kindred dismissed the claim that over 60% of operator profits are derived from the 5% of gamblers who are at risk of harm – an assertion that has been frequently published in the British media.

They also stressed operators have a financial motivation to prevent harm among players, saying any claims to the contrary “fundamentally misunderstand the economics of listed gambling operators”.

Kindred’s UK general manager Neil Banbury said: “Our data shows that the risk profile of revenue on higher spending accounts is significantly lower than the risk profile of lower spending accounts, indicating that the narrative of higher levels of spend automatically equating to higher levels of harm is not accurate.

“Our data also indicates that tailoring measures according to risk profile (rather than applying blanket fixed measures) helps ensure low risk customers are not needlessly pushed outside safer licensed environments. Working with partners on affordability, Kindred Group has been able to reduce the revenue from potentially financially vulnerable accounts to below 1%.”

Banbury continued: “At Kindred, we are clear that a healthy debate based on facts and evidence is what is required to improve outcomes for those who do have problems with their gambling. By ensuring we all use accurate data and information in the public debate, we can achieve that.”

Kindred also stated that the development of technologies including AI could aid the collection of that data by helping to identify at-risk players more quickly.

There was another fascinating in-depth piece in SBC News’ Winning Post column on Monday about the Gambling Act review, which highlighted the need for an evidence-based approach to avoid the mistakes in previous generational reviews of UK gambling legislation. The negative role of lobbyists in the current process, and how they are trying to influence it, is forensically analysed with the conclusions concerning.

Betting and Gaming Council

The Betting and Gaming Council have also been in the news again, saying that lawmakers need to “learn lessons from abroad” if they are to strike the right balance when it comes to the Gambling Act review.

The threat of the black market is again at the heart of the argument, along with industry research and the PwC report saying that the number of Brits betting on unlicensed sites has more than doubled in the last two years.

Highlighting the employment and tax benefits of the regulated market, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher warned: “We support the Gambling Review but there is a real danger that it leads to the regulated industry being smaller and the illegal black market growing substantially.

“This research is stark about the dangers of the black market, we have to learn lessons from abroad, and make the right choice at this dangerous crossroads.”

The BGC highlighted Norway, France and Spain as comparable countries where regulation has encouraged an exodus towards black market operators, with the BGC stating 66% of all money staked in Norway and 57% of all money bet in France weren’t with licensed operators (it is 20% for Spain).

Former General Counsel for the French gambling regulator, Rhadamès Killy, corroborated Dugher’s view, saying: “When we introduced our regulations in France in 2010, we analysed that the black market was the most extensive in the European states where the statutory regime was the most restrictive.

“A balance is required to effectively regulate without promoting the black market – I believe that balance is best struck when targeted restrictions focus on support for those at risk, but not excessively hinder or punish the wider public.”

Later in the week, the BGC again warned about the threat posed by black market operators, particularly in regard to the progress that has been made by the licensed industry regarding safer gambling. This was in response to latest UK Gambling Commission figures which highlighted a reduction in problem gambling during 2021. The BGC was formed in 2019 and the figures have been reducing since this time.

Dugher said: “Today’s figures are further evidence of that positive progress in raising standards on safer gambling and underline our calls for the Government to take an evidence-based approach to the upcoming White Paper. Our initiatives have included using advertising to promote safer gambling messages and tools like deposit limits and time-outs, investing more in research and treatment, and introducing tough new rules on VIP schemes.”

Local Government Association and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners

The Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) have both requested more powers in the area of gambling regulation as part of the review of the 2005 Gambling Act. Key demands concern the ability to restrict the amount of gambling advertising in a particular area, as well as limiting the number of licensed premises permitted.

Nesil Caliskan, Chairperson of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils are not anti-gambling, but it is time we have a regulatory framework for gambling that, above all else, prioritises protecting vulnerable people from gambling-related harm and gives powers to local communities.

“The review is a golden opportunity for the government to implement further measures that empower local communities and their elected representatives to determine what and how many gambling premises they have in their local areas. It is unacceptable that councils have such limited powers to refuse applications for new premises.”

Meanwhile, Joy Allen and David Sidwick, Joint Leads for Addictions and Substance Misuse at the APCC, said: “We know that people are committing serious crimes to fund gambling addictions and Police and Crime Commissioners are committed to taking action to make our communities safer.

“We support calls for councils to have more legal flexibility and power with respect to local gambling premises, and we want to see measures to get to grips with problem gambling online.

“Problem gambling can do a great deal of harm, to both the individual and to society, and we want to ensure that support is available to those affected and, where the industry has acted irresponsibly, it is held to account for its actions.”

An inquest has begun by The Sheffield Coroner’s Court into the death of 24-year-old Jack Ritchie, who committed suicide in November 2017.

A ‘chronic gambling addict’, the hearing will investigate how gambling contributed to his death, with a particular focus on regulation and the support available to those suffering from gambling-related harm.

France

In France, regulator l’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ) has expressed worries about the increasing number of French youngsters participating in gambling.

Conducted by SEDAP, a research observatory for psychological issues, the ANJ’s Youth Gambling Report suggests that 35% of 15 to 17-year-olds had gambled in 2021. Furthermore, it was discovered that ‘on average, French teenagers begin to gamble at 13 years old’. The split between online and retail is around 50:50, with scratch cards and lottery tickets the most popular products among teenagers.

Interestingly, it was also acknowledged that ‘21.5% have placed bets on esports competitions, knowing that taking bets on esports is prohibited in France’.

ANJ said they will review land-based ID verification requirements, as nearly three-quarters of respondents said an ‘underage ban was considered no obstacle’ to them.

ANJ President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin stated: “Gambling is infiltrating more and more into the daily life of minors, relayed by advertising and by a certain complicity of parents. Whether online or in the physical world, combating underage gambling is now a major public policy issue because, as we know, the earlier gambling begins, the greater the risk of addiction.

“The ANJ is determined to mobilize all its tools to vigorously fight against these practices, including through sanctions. It is also necessary that all the actors concerned are mobilized – parents, operators, social networks and public authorities.”

EPIC Risk Management

Last week, EPIC Risk Management announced the appointment of Stacey Goodwin, writer of The Girl Gambler, as the first associate of their charitable arm, the EPIC Restart Foundation. She will be responsible for ensuring the Foundation’s programmes are more accessible to women, as well as more tailored to offering the tools and advice they need. Goodwin has lived experience of gambling-related harm herself and has a huge social presence on Facebook and TikTok, where she shares her story.

She said: “Having undertaken the EPIC Restart Foundation programme myself, I realise how many other women can benefit from this fantastic programme. I really hope that I can pass on what I’ve learned and help other recovering females to put everything back into place after gambling harm.

“When I was gambling, I looked for another woman who had been through this; another woman who understood, who I could’ve messaged to talk to, or even a celebrity whose story I could have read. I never found that!

“Everything I’m doing now is to put that in place. There is someone for women to talk to and importantly, someone who won’t judge and understands from a female perspective. I’m ensuring others have what I felt I didn’t, and really needed, during addiction.”

Austrailian Communications and Media Authority

Continuing their recent policy, The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has said they have blocked a further 12 gambling sites which have been operating in the country illegally.

Connecticut

Finally, there was an in-depth piece in GGB News last week about the success of the gambling market in Connecticut, but concerns persist about problem gambling, particularly as a study has not been conducted on this issue for 14 years. This is particularly pertinent as The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling states that the number of calls to their helpline has increased four-fold since the advent of sports betting and online gaming in the state.

Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media