We attended yesterday the first day of the fifth annual GambleAware Harm Minimisation conference, focused on how young people are gambling and gaming in a rapidly evolving technical and social environment, and asking what implications this has for minimising gambling-related harm in the future.
Gambling industry attendees were left reeling from the start by extremely hard-hitting speeches from Kate Lampard (Chair of GambleAware) and Tim Miller (Executive Director of the Gambling Commission) calling on all sectors of the gambling industry to invest in better protecting their customers.
Kate Lampard said: “I must say that it seems to me that current public opinion represents a serious existential threat to the future success of the gambling industry in Britain. The Gambling Commission have reported that the proportion of the British population who regard gambling as fair and trustworthy has declined to just 34%. This is not a good place to be. In truth, my experience of the industry thus far is that it is not wholly undeserving of the flak that it gets”. She continued: “I was completely unsurprised by the proposals in the government’s policy review. An industry that has devoted its energies to aggressively fighting amongst itself, served only to accelerate the rapidly falling reputation it has, and to secure essentially none of the changes to regulations each sector sought”.
On the same theme, Tim Miller called on all sectors of the industry to work collaboratively to make gambling safer, saying: “More needs to be done to build upon the modest successes that we have seen to date. Over the last year, in the context of the gambling review, I have seen most passion from industry voices being focussed upon throwing stones at commercial rivals. This review could have provided an opportunity for operators across sectors to act in unison, to grasp the nettle of gambling harm, and to respond with a big and bold proposal to make gambling safer. That hasn’t been forthcoming but the opportunity hasn’t quite slipped through your fingers yet. So if you are a trade body, industry representative or an operator: stop battling each other and start tackling harm; stop looking over the fence and start looking at your own back yard; stop acting in a spirit of frustration and start acting in a spirit of collaboration. Use the passion that has been so evident during the gambling review and turn it into a relentless mission to make gambling safer”.
Transcripts of each of their speeches can be downloaded below. They were followed by Tracey Crouch MP (DCMS Minister for Sport and Civil Society) who started her speech by pointing at Tim Miller and saying that her message was “what he says”.
She went on to warn the industry to take a hard look at the advertising it produces, commenting that: “there are strict controls on what gambling advertising can show, and indeed when it can show it, but it’s still very unpopular. In a world where every smartphone provides an opportunity to gamble, you need to be more careful than ever that your adverts are responsible and don’t push the boundaries.” She also urged gambling operators to contribute at least the recommended voluntary donation of 0.1% of their GGY to GambleAware in order to avoid an underfunding crisis, saying: “we want everyone to work together to improve the voluntary system and make sure it provides the support needed, but if it doesn’t we won’t hesitate to explore alternative avenues including a statutory levy. So this, folks, is really the last chance saloon on this.”
The conference has continued today, with Doctor Rosena Allin-Khan MP, Shadow Minister for Sport, promising a statutory levy to fund research, education and treatment of problem gambling under any future Labour Government and repeating the pledge by Deputy Leader Tom Watson MP to remove gambling logos from football shirts, expressing concerns about the normalisation of gambling amongst children. Details of the GambleAware conference can be found here.