With Safer Gambling Week almost upon us, much of the news this week has been focused on this UK-wide initiative, with increasing attention being brought onto the issue due to the current second COVID lockdown.
On Monday, the British Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Nigel Huddleston, along with UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) Chief Executive Neil McArthur both confirmed their support for Safer Gambling Week, which has the aim of amplifying the Safer Gambling message across the country.
Running from 19-25 November, all gambling operators are committed to the campaign. Over 100,000 staff at more than 9,000 gambling venues and online sites in the UK and Ireland will help steer the national conversation on the issue. With consistent content and branding across all venues, online and on social media, the aim is to catalyse discussion on Safer Gambling with customers, family and friends.
The message of Safer Gambling has arguably never been more important, with Britain amongst a number of countries currently enduring a second lockdown due to the COVID pandemic. With the nights drawing in and the weather getting increasingly inclement – along with many people having been made redundant or furloughed – stressing the risks of gambling and associated harm now are vital.
This was a message picked up by McArthur, who stressed the importance of consumer protection and responsible marketing in an open letter to gaming operators.
He also highlighted the importance of complying with licensing conditions and current codes of practice, using evidence gleaned and initiatives introduced during the first lockdown over the Spring to stress to operators what is expected of them.
On Wednesday, the Managing Director of Tag Media and First Look Games, Tom Galanis, took the opportunity to highlight how Safer Gambling Week can set the tone of discussion on the issue across the industry for the next 12 months.
Focusing on the role affiliates play in marketing and promoting online gambling, he stressed that it is the affiliate’s responsibility to educate the potential player so they can make an informed decision on where and when to play. Related to this, the same standards on Safer Gambling and social responsibility should be applied to affiliates as well as operators.
Age Verification, KYC and AML all form an integral part of this, with Galanis saying that affiliates should assess the responsible gambling practices of the licensed operators and suppliers they promote. He accepts this is a tough task though and goes on to detail some of the issues that affiliates may encounter in this area.
UK Gambling Review
The political discussion around the forthcoming review of the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act is still live, with two MPs from the ruling Conservative Party having accepted jobs with the gambling industry to advise on ‘responsible gambling and customer service’ ahead of it.
Opposition MPs have criticized the ‘clear conflict of interest’ shown by Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson and Shipley MP Philip Davies, with the former working with the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) as their parliamentary adviser on safer gambling and sport. Davies, meanwhile, had accepted a role consulting GVC on responsible gambling and customer service standards.
GVC have since stressed he is no longer working for them, while Robertson stated he would not advocate for the iGaming industry, nor make any submissions to the gambling review on behalf of the cross-party parliamentary group on betting and gaming, of which he is a member.
The BGC highlighted that their work with Robertson was within the strict protocols governing MPs: “He is a strong advocate of big changes in the betting industry,” they said.
“Indeed, as a Conservative candidate at the last general election, he stood on a manifesto specifically committed to reforming the Gambling Act. His appointment is consistent with the strict parliamentary rules and has already been declared, so it is fully transparent.”
Robertson said: “I have, of course, had registered interests in betting and horseracing for over 20 years and have always, and continue, to observe the strict parliamentary rules on such matters.
“Paid advocacy is, of course, rightly prohibited in parliament and my contract with the BGC rules out such practices anyway.”
The two MPs have spoken in favour of the industry in the House of Commons in the past, but also advocate the need for greater scrutiny in the sector.
It has been another busy week for the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM), the charity set up to educate youngsters about the risks of gambling and gambling-related harm.
Mid-week, they announced a new partnership with Premier League club Burnley, with the aim of visiting Lancashire schools for PSHE lessons alongside the Burnley FC in the Community Foundation.
Burnley will also deliver a national education programme, with staff at the club also having taken YGAM’s accredited training course.
Sam Starsmore, National Education Manager at YGAM, added: “As an organisation, we are thrilled that Burnley FC will be putting our fully accredited training to use by delivering our resources to local schools as part of their PSHE lessons.
“Training the team at Burnley has been an absolute pleasure and their passion for the local community has shown us just how committed they are to dealing with the complex issues of gaming and gambling related harms in children.
“I am very much looking forward to training the rest of the staff at the club and working together in the months ahead to ensure that we inform, educate and safeguard young people in Lancashire and beyond.”
This week, YGAM also announced their support for South Yorkshire’s Safeguarding Awareness Week, a virtual event which launches this coming Monday (16 November). Ahead of the initiative, YGAM have worked across local schools, authorities and organisations with the aim of increasing awareness and safeguarding future generations from gaming and gambling-related harm.
Dr Rupert Suckling, Director of Public Health at Doncaster Council, said: “Over two thirds of young people participating in our Pupil Lifestyle Survey say they’re taking part in activities related to gambling at least occasionally. For many, this will be considered just a bit of fun, but we know that problem gaming and gambling causes harm to children, young people, and families. This training from YGAM supports our local Gambling Action Plan, by increasing awareness and understanding amongst frontline staff to protect children and young people from gaming and gambling related harm”
YGAM have also been training Barnsley College and Hull City Council recently, with Barnsley Council and Doncaster College set to receive similar training next month.
Moving north of the border and GambleAware have partnered with Citizens Advice Scotland to roll out a new gambling support service.
Debt advisers and a number of other frontline workers will be trained on understanding, preventing and reducing gambling-related harm, with staff being given access to a range of new tools to help those experiencing hardship. This includes highlighting the specific treatments available.
Regional hubs will be set up in Airdrie, Inverness, South West Aberdeenshire and West Lothian in a programme that will last until 2022.
Finally, this week’s £2.8m penalty handed out to Boylesports following a UKGC investigation into money laundering failures highlights the importance of making AML and Safer Gambling a top priority.
Additional requirements related to Boylesports’s online license must be fulfilled too, with Richard Watson, executive director at the Gambling Commission, saying: “It is vital that all gambling businesses have effective anti-money laundering policies and procedures firmly in place and as part of our ongoing drive to raise standards we will continue to take tough action against operators who do not.”
This update was brought to you by Andrew Morgan, Director at Dam Mad Media. If you want to know more about safer gambling, please follow this link to join Damn Mad Media’s Safer Gambling Marketing Group.