Betting and Gaming Council
On Monday, the chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, stressed the body’s commitment to safer gambling, saying it is the regulated industry’s ‘top priority all year round’.
He also vowed to increase the number of people utilizing deposit limits, with over two million people currently setting their own restrictions – a service that is currently offered by BGC members.
The pledge comes just two weeks after the BGC launched their ‘Take Time To Think’ campaign, aimed at encouraging customers to stay in control of their betting by using deposit limits, time-outs and self-exclusion tools. Last week, the Gambling Commission highlighted a fall in problem gambling, but this doesn’t mean the regulated industry is complacent.
Dugher said: “Safer Gambling Week is now an established annual event. We know that rates of problem gambling are low and are now falling, which is great news, but Safer Gambling Week is further evidence of the regulated industry’s determination to keep raising standards.
“Millions of people enjoy a flutter every year on the National Lottery, at the bingo, on sports, in casinos and gaming online – and the vast majority of them do so safely and responsibly. But one problem gambler is one too many, which is why Safer Gambling Week is so important.
“This is about building on the two million customers who now use deposit limits, and it is also about making sure that those who need help know where they can get it. We don’t want people drifting off to the unsafe, unregulated black market online.
“Safer Gambling Week brings together everyone who genuinely wants to see safer gambling including the regulator, the Government and so many cross-party MPs. For the regulated industry, safer gambling isn’t just an issue for one week of the year, it’s our top priority all year round.”
Meanwhile, Gambling Minister Chris Philp MP said: “Safer Gambling Week is an important moment for the industry to come together and continue to do all it can to promote safer gambling and prevent gambling-related harm year-round.
“We need to find ways of doing more to protect those with severe gambling addiction from the life changing damage they can suffer. Our ongoing review of the Gambling Act will ensure our laws are fit for the digital age, and strike the right balance between protecting those most at risk and giving adults the freedom to choose how they gamble safely.”
Related to UK legislation, the House of Lords has told the Armed Forces to dispose of all gambling machines from military bases, as well as to improve data on gambling addiction in the military.
On Wednesday, the House of Lords Select Committee supported an amendment tabled by the Lord Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, related to the release of better data on military personnel seeking treatment for alcohol, drug and gambling problems in the annual report of the Armed Forces Covenant. This is part of the ongoing update of the 2006 Armed Forces Act, which is due to expire at the end of the year in its current form.
The Lord Bishop said: “I am concerned that the Ministry of Defence is not taking gambling-related harm in the military community sufficiently seriously.”
He went on to say: “On two occasions in response to my concerns in this area, the Ministry of Defence has stated that it has seen no evidence, or does not hold information, suggesting that serving personnel are more prone to problem gambling than any other group in society.”
He subsequently refuted this statement, highlighting that “veterans were 10x more likely to experience harm than non-veterans” according to research out of the Charity Forces in Mind Trust and the University of Swansea.
The MOD said they will include gambling as part of their mental health and addiction related research, but did admit they do not collect specific stats on the levels of gambling among military personnel.
GambleAware have been active during Safer Gambling Week, reporting an increased awareness of their National Gambling Treatment Service (NGTS), particularly among high-risk male gamblers.
The success of their advertising campaigns was highlighted by the statistic that in August 2021, 60% of high-risk gamblers agreed that they would contact NGTS as an initial step if they had concerns about their gambling. This is up from 47% in May 2020.
Calls and online chats to the NGTS Helpline were up 41% in the two years from March 2019 to March 2021, partly due to high-risk gamblers wagering more due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, GambleAware said recognition of the campaign had risen to 74% among high-risk male gamblers and 79% among affected others, and that London and the Midlands have more high-risk gamblers than anywhere else in the country.
GambleAware chief executive Zoë Osmond said: “The National Gambling Treatment Service brings together a network of organisations across Great Britain that provides free confidential treatment and support for anyone experiencing gambling harms.
“It is heartening to see that this campaign is helping to signpost more people to treatment for gambling harms, and also working to drive greater awareness of the provision of treatment services.”
The H1 donations to GambleAware were also reported this week, with bet365 accounting for 39.6% of all donations pledged in the six months from the end of March to the end of September 2021. This equates to £4.2m of the £10.6m received in total. Entain ranked second with £2.0m, with William Hill donating £1.0m.
The final GambleAware-related news this week relates to the appointment of four new trustees to the Board, full details of which can be found here.
Chair of Trustees, Kate Lampard CBE, said: “We are very pleased to announce the appointment of four new trustees, each of whom bring with them skills and experience which will help guide and support GambleAware as it works to deliver its new five-year strategy.
“Our current Board composition is strong on health and public health, but we recognised there was a clear need to increase the diversity of the Board and extend the skill base of trustees. With these new appointments, we look forward to building and expanding the Board’s expertise that will support the charity in the years ahead.”
The UK Gambling Commission has described the implementation of its ban on betting with credit cards as ‘successful’ saying there had been no ‘unintended consequences’. They also said that the introduction of the ban went smoothly and had been generally well-received by the public.
It came into effect in April 2020, having been announced three months prior, but there were concerns that customers would just bet with other forms of credit. However, the view at the time was that the additional ‘friction’ created by the credit card ban would dissuade people from gambling with borrowed money.
The regulator tested this theory using an online survey from Yonder as well as consulting focus groups of bettors, concluding that the ban had had a positive impact.
They went on to say: “A major high street bank has informed us that they observed the volume and value of gambling transactions with credit cards to the gambling merchant code, MCC7995, reduce to a very low level after the ban.”
The Gambling Commission also said there had been no breaches by operators in relation to the ban, while extending the ban to e-wallets that could be loaded with credit proved to be successful once a “small number” of breaches had been “quickly resolved”.
Fears that other riskier forms of credit such as overdrafts and payday loans would be used to circumvent the ban proved to be unfounded, with levels of use at similar levels both before and after the ban was enforced.
In a small survey, the Gambling Commission also found that 76% of people who had gambled with a credit card no longer used borrowed funds at all. A further 15% used borrowed funds and highlighted the ban as the reason behind this, while 9% used borrowed funds but highlighted other factors.
The UKGC will now conduct an evaluation through NatCen Social Research on the efficacy of the ban, which should be completed in just over a year’s time. The findings will influence future policy in this area.
The Interim Chief Executive of the UKGC, Andrew Rhodes, said: “Protecting consumers is at the heart of everything we do. We introduced this policy as part of our multifaceted work to reduce gambling harm.
“The successful implementation of the ban across the industry and the impact on consumer behaviour and financial spend we have monitored so far is an encouraging sign that the ban has reduced consumer reliance on gambling with borrowed money. We look forward to NatCen’s report on the long-term impacts of the ban and how this can inform our future policies.”