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There have been two big stories in the world of Safer Gambling this week – the launch of the much-anticipated review of the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act on Tuesday and the rebranding of GVC to Entain on Thursday.
Gambling Act Review
The Gambling Act review promises to be the most comprehensive analysis of the law since it was introduced 15 years ago. The priority will be on consumer safeguards, online protection, advertising standards and the role of the UK Gambling Commission, with a focus on whether the Act is appropriate for the technology of the age. VIP gamblers, age verification systems and social responsibility requirements will also be investigated.
Considering the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and Facebook started in 2004, it is clear that the world has changed significantly since the law was introduced. This is why there has been much talk about bringing the legislation into the digital age.
Oliver Dowden is the Secretary of State of the DCMS, the department overseeing the review. He said: “This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely.
“This builds upon our clear track record of introducing tough measures to protect people from the risk of gambling harm [such as] banning the use of credit cards, launching tighter age verification checks and cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals.”
The minimum age to play the National Lottery will be raised from 16 to 18 in 2021, while the review itself will focus on 45 key questions built around three basic objectives. Those objectives include the law’s suitability in the digital age, the balance between preventing harm and consumer freedom, and customer protection both in land-based and online channels.
The industry has reacted positively, with the Betting and Gaming Council welcoming an ‘evidence-led’ review which will build upon work already undertaken by their members in the area of safer gambling.
“As the standards body for the regulated industry, we strongly welcome the launch of the government’s review,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said.
“We called for it to be wide-ranging and evidence-led, and it provides an important opportunity to drive further changes on safer gambling introduced by the industry in the past year.”
The BGC also pointed out that rates of problem gambling have not increased in the last 20 years, urging the government to focus on the 0.7% of problem gamblers rather than discouraging those who gamble safely.
Dugher continued: “I hope Ministers will focus in with laser-like precision on problem gamblers and those at risk. The government must ensure that any changes do not drive people to the unregulated black market online, where there aren’t any safeguards to protect vulnerable people.”
The BGC also highlighted the positive things the gambling industry brings to society including providing employment, paying taxes to the treasury, and sponsoring grassroots sport. It is already accepted that advertising and sponsorships will form part of the review.
At the other end of the scale, the Peers for Gambling Reform have also welcomed the announcement and have urged the government to implement the recommendations suggested by the House of Lords group in their July report.
These include the banning of gambling sponsorship in sport, stake limits, and a new testing system for products based on harm indicators. They also want a mandatory levy to fund research into and treatment of gambling-related harm, enforceable duty of care legislation, and bans on direct marketing and inducements to bet.
Billed as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to protect at-risk gamblers, the Peers also want to see the creation of a Gambling Ombudsman and the reassessment of VIP schemes. The review will definitely focus on customer redress and the systems in place when things go wrong.
This balance of arguments was weighed up by DCMS Minister for Sport, Nigel Huddleston, in the House of Commons. He said there would not be a knee-jerk response to the review and that they will “listen and gather evidence”.
The DCMS also highlighted the NHS as being a critical partner in the fight against problem gambling. The health service is aiming to open 15 specialist clinics nationwide to expand support in this area, with the UK’s biggest operators committed to spending £100m on research and gambling treatment over the next four years.
Despite this, the founder of Clean Up Gambling, Matt-Zarb Cousin, said the British public want to see significant gambling reform. In the latest edition of the iGB Gambling Review podcast, Zarb-Cousin said the industry must accept it is viewed negatively by the public and that the issue goes far deeper than merely being a PR problem.
Speaking to host Daniel Bliss, he said: “They need to accept that the public are not on their side and either accept that there is a problem – not just a public relations problem, but a problem with how the industry operates and a fundamental problem – and take the Government and public on a journey to resolve that.
“But that starts with admitting there’s a problem and so far the industry has not done that. So far it’s been, ‘We don’t think this is a problem but we’ll work to deal with it’. You need to acknowledge there’s a problem.”
He highlighted data from Survation that shows the British public support extremely low stake and deposit limits, while many also back a complete ban on online gambling. He went on to say that the industry has not engaged seriously enough with proposals such as the soft cap on deposits proposed by the Social Market Foundation.
He is confident that the reforms that will be introduced will be beneficial for society, as well as creating a more sustainable industry. Included in his wish list is greater affordability measures, stake and speed limits on online slots, and more money invested in research and treatment of gambling related issues.
He also wants to see the Gambling Commission be given more teeth and resources.
He continued: “I think the regulator’s issues stem from this instruction from successive governments to grow the industry, to prioritise growth,” he said. “If you have an industry where – according to the House of Lords – 60% of profits come from the 5% most likely to be at risk of harm – then if you grow the industry, you can’t reduce harm. It is literally one or the other with this business model.
“That attitude has shifted, starting under Sarah Harrison and then under Neil McArthur, but that was their ethos: that they had to prioritise growth. That was the root of a lot of the problems.
“But the solution seems pretty clear. Give them more money. Give them more resources.”
For greater background, the key questions being asked concerning online gambling, marketing, the regulator, age limits and land-based gambling can be found here while the tricky balancing act that clearly must be traversed is highlighted in iGamingFuture’s editorial from Thursday.
Moving to other news and in a timely announcement, this week saw GVC relaunch as Entain, putting social responsibility and long-term sustainability at the forefront of their business model.
The company has committed to operating only in regulated markets by 2023, while all subsidiaries and teams within the organisation will be supported by their new ‘Advanced Responsibility & Care’ programme. This will enhance player protection through their own proprietary-built technologies, leading to improved monitoring and interventions. Additional checks will also be introduced.
They also aim to expand globally, as highlighted by bwin’s pending launch in Colombia, and will be supported in this through their ‘Entain Foundation’. This will see the company commit £100m over the next five years to grassroots sports, local communities and research into gambling-related harm.
Mid-week, GambleAware published their second tranche of research conducted by YouGov which suggests BAME communities in the UK are disproportionately affected by problem gambling.
One-in-five BAME adults in the survey said they had ‘some level of problem gambling harm’ at a rating of PGSI-1 on the problem gambling severity index. This compares to 12% of white people. Meanwhile, 7% of BAME adults stated they have the highest PGSI-8 index, as opposed to 2% for white adults.
The YouGov data also highlighted that 75% of problem gamblers from BAME backgrounds stated they needed advice, treatment or support, compared with 49% of white adults. The research is useful as it highlighted where resources need to be targeted.
Finally, GamCare and YGAM announced a new education initiative in Northern Ireland this week that will see the Youth Work Alliance in Belfast deliver training to youth workers and teachers across the region, with them gaining access to City & Guilds assured training and education resources too.
“The work we are doing with YGAM, working alongside GamCare, delivering their training and resources on the ground here in Belfast and across Northern Ireland is going to be a huge benefit to our local communities,” Youth Work Alliance chief executive Stephen Dallas said.
“Gambling-related harms have been presented as a hidden issue in Northern Ireland for many years, which makes it even more vital for us to ensure children and vulnerable people are informed, educated and safeguarded against the potential harms associated with gambling and increasingly, gaming too.”
Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media