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Rapid and effective change is needed in the gambling industry

Rapid and effective change is needed in the gambling industry
3 min read

Despite positive statements from some gambling companies about reducing gambling harm there appears to be differing views in this large, diverse industry, says Carolyn Harris MP. 

Is the UK gambling industry serious about changing? This is something I ask myself frequently in my role as Chair of the All Party Group for Gambling Harm.  Despite positive statements from some gambling companies about reducing gambling harm there appears to be differing views in this large, diverse industry.

Keeping things very simple, I see gambling companies and their affiliates dividing into the following three groups:

  1. Those who genuinely want to change
  2. Those who want to talk about change as part of industry reputation management
  3. Those who don’t accept that change is needed

Recently the latter group has begun to concern me, because you can’t change if you think you’ve done nothing wrong or that it’s always somebody else’s fault. 

UK gambling licensees who wish to change can only move at the speed of the slowest unless the Gambling Commission begins to regulate companies in a different way, e.g. move away from the expectation that licensees will do the ‘right things’ as opposed to using more ‘sanctions’.  Whilst is it is welcome that some gambling companies are taking measures to prevent harm this is undermined by many others who refuse to change and put proper protections in place. Without close co-operation between all stakeholders and appropriate sanctions being imposed vulnerable customers will simply migrate to companies who are less responsible.

During the fixed odds betting terminal debate claim and counter claim was based on dubious data.  This continues today for other gambling issues as this video outlines.  A high profile independent bookmaker discusses his facts on the golf course, using Office of National Statistics data to ‘confirm’ his ‘facts’ (at 90 seconds). This data does carry a warning of inaccuracy from the ONS, which is conveniently ignored. 

On social media the same bookmaker again accuses gambling campaigners of dramatising the role gambling might play in suicide. Campaigners are referred to as “a gay club.” Goodness knows what those who’ve lost a family member to suicide think of these views, which are based on a complete lack of understanding of health research methodologies?

Presently the UK doesn’t collect any methodologically sound data covering gambling and its impacts on suicide. The UK relies on overseas data. The latest high quality data from Sweden suggests as many as two UK suicides per day may have been impacted by gambling. This strongly suggests that the Office of National Statistics data warning should be heeded; not ignored.

Whilst I recognise that the aforementioned abhorrent views don’t represent the gambling industry as a whole, it is of great concern that some hold these.  It’s possible that the Gambling Commission aren’t aware of these publicly available discussions? These discussions do raise the question whether proactive action is required by the Commission.  After all, there are standards that UK gambling licensees have to adhere to.

In conclusion, the gambling industry needs to be serious about changing because rapid and effective change is needed. This won’t happen if change is allowed to be slowed down by those who are unwilling to accept that reducing gambling harm is not all about the individual taking full responsibility for their actions regardless of the 'encouragements' to gamble offered by the industry.  All parties must accept their responsibilities and work together.


Carolyn Harris is Chair of the Gambling Related Harm APPG & Labour MP for Swansea East.

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Read the most recent article written by Carolyn Harris MP - Labour’s next manifesto must tackle the harm caused by gambling


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