Samaritans publish practical guidance on reducing the risk of gambling related suicide

Today, 27 April 2021, Samaritans has published its first best practice guidance for the gambling industry to help gambling businesses understand and adopt practical steps to prevent gambling-related suicide. Entitled “Reducing the risk of gambling related suicide” the guidance can be downloaded below.

Introducing its guidance, Samaritans states as follows on its website:

Research has found a clear association between gambling and suicide. People experiencing gambling-related harms are more likely to also experience suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts than the general population. To help tackle the problem, Samaritans has undertaken a programme of work to further understand gambling as a risk factor for suicide and what can be done to prevent gambling-related suicide.

With appetite from the gambling industry to do more to prevent gambling-related harms and suicide, Samaritans embarked on setting industry standards that gambling businesses can hold themselves to account and is urging all gambling businesses to adopt its guidelines as a minimum to demonstrate their commitment to suicide prevention.

“Suicide is preventable and we know different industries need to address specific challenges in order to have effective suicide prevention practices in place. With a clear association between gambling and suicide, identifying the changes needed in the gambling environment to prevent suicide is a vital part of our work. We’re proud to publish these industry guidelines and look forward to seeing all gambling businesses engage with them in a proactive effort to do more to prevent gambling-related suicide.

Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. There is still much more that needs to be done within the wider gambling environment to reduce the risk of gambling-related harm, and to ensure that everyone can get the support they need. Operators following our guidelines is one positive step towards improving suicide prevention in the gambling industry and we will continue to push for action to help reduce gambling-related harms in the future.”

Mubeen Bhutta, Head of Policy at Samaritans

Samaritans developed these guidelines by consulting with a wide range of relevant stakeholders, including people with lived experience, other charities, health and support services and those involved in the gambling industry.

Samaritans’ industry guidelines are uniquely focused on suicide prevention and have been created with the view of sitting alongside existing industry resources that aim to reduce the risk of gambling-related harms.

Recommendations include how to have a robust suicide prevention policy to safeguard customers and staff, how to use harm prevention to guide marketing communications, how to use data to help prevent suicide and how to communicate sensitively with customers in distress.

These guidelines are another example of Samaritans’ work to promote excellence in suicide prevention across industries that have specific associated risks, following the charity’s guidance for technology platforms and the media sector.

We reported last year on a Gambling Commission investigation instigated following the tragic suicide of a customer of Playtech subsidiary company, PT Entertainment Services Limited (PTES). Commenting on this on 27 May 2020, the Commission said:

In March 2019 the regulator began an investigation after being contacted by the family of a man who tragically took his own life in April 2017 aged 25. Although PTES surrendered its licence during the investigation the Commission decided that it was in the public interest to complete the investigation and publish its findings.

The Commission’s investigation identified serious systemic failings in the way PTES managed its social responsibility and anti-money laundering processes.  In relation to the young man in question, the Commission concluded that the operator failed to carry out any responsible gambling customer interactions even though it was aware that several of his debit card transactions had been declined. PTES also provided him with VIP status without verifying that he could afford to spend the amounts of money he was playing with – all of which are serious and unacceptable failings.

The conclusion section of Samaritans’ guidance published today reads as follows:

The gambling industry has a responsibility to help prevent suicide. Adopting an integrated approach that puts customer welfare at the heart of the gambling environment can help make gambling a safer activity for customers to engage in. By implementing the recommendations we have outlined, operators can create safer spaces and foster best practice in the gambling environment, allowing customers to enjoy their time with reassurance. To promote excellence in suicide prevention, it is crucial that all operators endeavour to implement these recommendations and continually review and improve their practices