Safety Nets and Safe Places, BGC unveil £100 million problem gambler fund

The UK’s Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has unveiled a major £100-million programme to improve treatment services for problem gamblers in the country.

BGC’s so-called “Big Five”–Bet365, GVC Holdings, Paddy Power Betfair, Sky Betting and Gaming and William Hill–will provide the funds to GambleAware, the project’s main commissioning agent, who will ensure the funds reach the right people — those require counselling and treatment.

And, looking to the future, the gaming industry powerhouses have further pledged to up the amount they already spend on research, education and treatment services from 0.1% to 0.25% of annual revenue this year, then 0.5% in 2021, 0.75% in 2022 and a full one per cent in 2023.

“This latest funding commitment is yet more evidence of the industry’s determination to improve the quality and provision of treatment for problem gamblers,” said BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher. “And of our members’ eagerness to get on with it as quickly as possible.”

He added: “As the new body representing the regulated betting and gaming industry, we are committed to driving up standards.”

Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary, welcomed the news, stressing the government was “delighted” that the industry’s top table was taking further concrete steps to support treatment for problem gamblers.

“I’ve seen first hand how problem gambling can damage people’s mental health and affect the lives of those around them,” said Mr Hancock. “And I’ve been determined to help protect vulnerable people from the impacts.

“This government will continue to tackle the consequences of problem gambling by rolling-out specialist services on the NHS, which will offer expert care and treatment for those who need it,” he promised.

The £100-million boost comes amid a flurry of health and safety concerns as England’s betting shops re-opened for business on June 15 since they were closed on March 23, as part of the novel Coronavirus Covid-19 lockdown.

Betting shops in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will open when their respective governments permit.

Meantime, all casinos and adult gaming centres across the UK remain closed until further notice.

With GVC Holdings, owners of Ladbrokes and Coral, confirming the reopening of all its 2,445 betting shops in England, as are bookies run by Flutter Entertainment, Michael Dugher was adamant.

“It is critical that betting shops do all and everything they can to protect employees and punters,” said the BGC chief executive.

The new measures, to protect both staff and customers, include limiting the number of people allowed in the shop at a time, Plexiglas ‘sneeze screens’ at the till, hand sanitizer dispensers and markings and signs to clarify the two-metre social distancing rules.

As an added safety measure, William Hill, for example, have initiated so-called “call-over” betting, where the customer tells the person behind the counter their selection, rather than having to fill in the traditional bookies’ line and hand it over.

“For many people the local bookies’ is at the heart of their community,” said Mr Dugher.

“They create good jobs, help the economy and provide an opportunity for a flutter for the millions of people in Britain who fancy a bet. We want to make these places as safe as possible.”

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