New National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms published

The Gambling Commission has published the new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, a three-year strategy which will drive and coordinate work to bring a lasting impact on reducing gambling harms. You can download the National Strategy document below.

It has also launched a new website – www.reducinggamblingharms.org – where all information on the priorities identified in the new strategy can be accessed and progress tracked. That website carries the headline message: “The sole aim of this three-year National Strategy is to move faster and go further to reduce gambling harms”.

On its website, the Commission states as follows:

For the first time health bodies, charities, regulators and businesses will come together in partnership to effectively tackle the issue – with the Commission calling for action and combined efforts to deliver two strategic priority areas:

  • Prevention and Education – making significant progress towards a clear public health prevention plan which includes the right mix of interventions.
  • Treatment and Support – delivering truly national treatment and support options that meet the needs of users.

As part of the new strategy, the Commission will continue to take a firm regulatory enforcement approach whilst also further improving gambling harms research and evaluation so that there is widespread adoption of what works. The Commission will also explore the establishment of a new National Research Centre and work is being undertaken to build a National Data Repository for research purposes.

Public Health England will also be conducting the first ever review of evidence on the public health harms in England relating to gambling. The review will look at the range and scale of gambling harms and identify the impact of gambling on peoples’ health and wellbeing.

Our comments

Although concern has existed in some quarters whether it is either desirable or a proper exercise of the Gambling Commission’s functions for it to take over from the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (now re-named the “Advisory Board for Safer Gambling”) primary responsibility for the new strategy, on the basis that this might present a potential conflict with the exercise of its statutory role as regulator of the commercial gambling industry, the bringing together of all stakeholders is the logical and sensible extension of the Commission’s now familiar call for greater collaboration in tackling gambling-related harm.

In this latter respect, the Commission states in the new strategy that: “working collaboratively in a coordinated manner to focus efforts and share more widely what does and does not work, will achieve greater impact than more isolated efforts”. It also acknowledges that: “the gambling industry is increasingly collaborating on activities to promote safer gambling”, adding that: “even more can be achieved through active targeting, direction and support for this collaboration by the Gambling Commission as the industry regulator”.

It goes on to say that: “Working towards the outcomes in this strategy is by no means restricted to the gambling industry and will require collaboration by all businesses and partners involved in reducing gambling harms. These include national and local health and social care bodies, commissioning bodies, service providers for prevention and treatment programmes, and third sector organisations in order to make real progress”.

Covering the cost

It should also be noted from the speech given by Bill Moyes, the Chairman of the Commission, when launching the new strategy (that can be downloaded below), that he takes the view that: “no-one will be able to plan properly to deliver this strategy if prevention and treatment continues to be funded by voluntary contributions from industry or regulatory settlements following licence breaches”, going on to say:

The implementation of a statutory levy, the powers for which are already on the statute book, would not only help to secure appropriate levels of funding but would provide a certainty to the funding streams that would allow for a sustainable and more long-term approach to be taken. Our support for the principle of a statutory levy is already on record, in our advice to government during the Gambling Review. The publication of this new strategy has not diminished that support. Indeed, it has brought into sharper relief the need for such an approach to funding. The Gambling Commission continues to support a statutory levy to fund prevention activities and treatment and support services.

However, a contrary view was taken by Gambling Minister, Mims Davies MP, who said in her speech on the same day (that can also be downloaded below):

The voluntary system does work and continues to have support from government and industry. GVC has already announced today that it will donate 1% of its gross gambling yield. We believe the voluntary system is capable of delivering sustainable funding to meet the increased targets that will be set as evidence of needs emerges. I encourage the Gambling Commission to support this and will look forward to the detailed Implementation Plan. Let me be clear, if it turns out that the voluntary system is not capable of meeting current and future needs, we will look at alternatives. Everything is on the table.

Content of the new strategy

The new strategy is broken down into six constituent parts, as follows (with links to each sub-part):

  1. Prevention & education – towards a collective and clear prevention plan applying the right mix of interventions
    • Overview
    • Realising the aim
  2. Treatment & support– significant progress towards truly national treatment and support options that meet the needs of current and future service users
    • Overview
    • Realising the aim
  3. Regulation & oversight – widespread adoption of best practice through regulatory frameworks
    • Purpose
    • Working in partnership
    • Gambling Commission actions
  4. Collaboration – actions by businesses and other key organisations support the delivery of the strategy and the reduction of gambling harms
    • Purpose
    • Working in partnership
    • Gambling Commission actions
  5. Evaluation – to understand more about what works to reduce gambling harms
    • Purpose
    • Working in partnership
    • Gambling Commission actions
  6. Research to inform action – to widen the research base and improve links between research and policy
    • Purpose
    • Working in partnership
    • Gambling Commission action

Quotes by those welcoming the new strategy

The following comments, quoted by the Gambling Commission on its website, welcome the fresh approach advocated in the new strategy:

  • Bill Moyes, chairman of the Gambling Commission:

This new strategy will provide us and our partners the opportunity to make faster progress to reduce gambling harms. It will not just benefit the health and wellbeing of those directly affected and in need of support, but also those such as friends, families, communities and wider society. The success of this strategy relies on everyone working together to reduce gambling harms through prevention and education, and treatment and support. Everyone has a role to play to combat gambling harms and I’m delighted that the health sector, charities and businesses are showing their commitment to get behind the strategy and make it a success. We all need to better understand the harms that can be caused by gambling, moving away from simply counting problem gamblers and instead build a greater understanding of the harms experienced. Over the lifetime of the strategy we will better understand the full range of harms and how to protect against them.

  • Mims Davies MP, Minister for Sport and Civil Society (i.e. the “Gambling Minister”): 

Protecting people from harm should be at the heart of every gambling business. Addiction can ruin lives and it is vital that those who need help are given the right treatment at the right time. The Gambling Commission’s strategy reflects our clear expectation that the whole sector must come together to reduce problem gambling and the harm it does to people and their families. Through increased research, education and treatment I want to see faster progress made in tackling this issue.

  • Claire Murdoch, national director for mental health at NHS England:

There is increasing evidence of a link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health issues and this is an important step in the battle to reduce the harm caused. The NHS is playing its part with the Long Term Plan committing to an increase in mental health services for patients with a gambling problem but gambling addiction is not just the NHS’s problem – it is an issue for the whole of society affecting people of all ages and backgrounds which is why it is everyone’s responsibility to act. That is why the NHS looks forward to working closely with our partners to protect vulnerable people and ensure they have the right support.

  • Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco and Justice at Public Health England:

PHE welcomes the Strategy’s commitment to taking a public health approach to gambling related harms. There is an urgent need to develop a better understanding of these harms and how best to respond to them and PHE has been commissioned by Government to undertake a comprehensive independent evidence review on the public health harms of gambling. In addition, the National Institute for Health Research has commissioned a complementary review of the effectiveness of policies and interventions for reducing gambling-related harm, which will form part of PHE’s report. Our full evidence review is expected in spring next year.

Other bodies have welcomed the new strategy, commenting as follows:

  • Anna Hemmings, CEO of GamCare:

We are proud to have participated in the formation of the new national strategy with the Gambling Commission. As a key provider of support and treatment for those affected by problem gambling, we welcome the step towards more coordinated efforts from education bodies, gambling operators and third sector organisations to tackle gambling-related harms. We are also delighted to see the steps proposed to expand our collective knowledge on gambling addictions through a data repository and research hub. With better co-ordination and evaluation of national education, prevention and research initiatives alongside support and treatment services, we can ensure that those at risk or already struggling receive more effective care. GamCare looks forward to playing a vital role in delivering the strategy over the coming years.

  • Anna van der Gaag, Chair, Advisory Board for Safer Gambling:

I welcome the publication of the Gambling Commission’s National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, with its clear priorities around prevention and treatment. Rarely has a regulator taken such a courageous step. This signifies a significant milestone in our collective aim to move faster and deeper to meet the needs of individuals and address harms caused by gambling activities. I particularly welcome the strategy’s emphasis on co-production with people with lived experience as well as providers, academics, and governments across Great Britain. As the Commission’s independent Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, we will be supporting the Strategy by helping to shape the implementation plan, monitoring the progress of the strategy, and working together with a wide range of experts. The Strategy will only succeed in achieving its ambition if it is truly collaborative in both intent and delivery.

  • Marc Etches, CEO GambleAware:

Gambling is a serious public health issue and we welcome the importance the Gambling Commission has placed on collaboration between organisations to help reduce gambling harms. GambleAware has a central role in commissioning core elements of the National Strategy including the research programme and the emerging National Gambling Treatment Service working with the NHS and others to help direct people to the right intervention. GambleAware has commissioned specialist treatment for gambling addiction at Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust since 2008 and in the summer a second specialist clinic will open in collaboration with Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. In addition, GambleAware funds national programmes to raise awareness about gambling harms with organisations such as with Citizens Advice and we are responsible for Britain’s first public awareness campaign, Bet Regret, to prevent harm among sports bettors. Last year, 30,000 people received advice from the National Gambling Helpline and 9,000 people were treated via a national network of providers we fund. However, less than three per cent of the reported number of problem gamblers access services so it is clear there is much more to be done in raising awareness about this serious public health issue.

 

 

Download article PDF: Mims Davies speech - GOV.UK 25.04.19