Prohibiting change towards safer gambling
The use of the term ‘prohibitionist’ is something we are seeing used with increasing repetition by the gambling industry towards those advocating for safer gambling regulations. It is a somewhat ironic term to label those who are actually not anti-gambling but anti-gambling harm and simply want it to be possible to bet fair and without risk of exploitation.
It is useful to point out that the term ‘prohibition’ is about “the action of forbidding something through law”, its quite alarming to assume the gambling industry appear to not want for stronger laws and more enforceable regulations to go with their new pledges, standards and commitments around safer gambling. It seems they wish to also prohibit engagement with those presenting an evidenced view of harm or breaches of regulations as if it never happened. There is a joint accountability and whilst there are likely polarised views on both sides of the debate, this ‘head in the sand’ and antagonistic approach by the gambling industry to discredit any of those presenting an evidence based view of operator failings is hindering progress and change. Prohibitionism is about unlawful acts – something the gambling industry iwould have been wise to adhere to when exploiting vulnerable individuals.
Progress or spin?
Along with this false perception of an anti-gambling brigade, it has also been interesting to read the perception and apparent spin around ‘successes’ by the gambling industry in April 2020. These included:
-0.0009% of gambling industry revenue being donated to gambling charities.
-Complying with a regulator ban on credit cards & adhering to government pressure re advertising.
-Doing their bit for COVID-19 like us all.
Whilst all of the above are welcomed, these apparent achievements need scrutiny and put in context as essentially they been reactive and not proactive decisions. The advertising ‘ban’ for example is a welcome move, but if the advert ban was about ‘protecting customers during a pandemic’ it would have stopped 6 weeks ago surely? If gambling firms were really serious then targeted online and social ads would cease also surely? Yet again the reaction to government and public pressure is claimed as proactive action for PR and lobbying purposes.
Evidenced based examples of harm
It’s often asked, why are people like you so Anti-gambling? Let me again be clear I am not and simply want gambling to exist in a more regulated, ethical and safer environment. This should not be difficult. As a reminder, a couple of the key Gambling Licencing objectives place an importance on:
“Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way and protecting vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling”
Based on the above, if there really is a serious focus on raising standards going forward, then why for example, as I posted this week, possible for an individual to place 7,500 bets in a year totalling £1Million+, lose x1.5 their annual income in a year, spike 656% on RG reports and bet 345 days a year, with no advance checks when self excluded? The reality of safer gambling is that when you do the aforementioned it results in being given VIP Status with no up front SOF or affordability checks. It is still the case that insufficient due diligence takes place in advance into affordability. From experience it is possible to lose x1.5 your net annual salary in less than 6 months, when your credit file also shows 9 loans in 2 years over £110,000. If you are not asked in advance, then either gambling firms are accessing data about you without consent into your credit background, or quite simply the checks are not happening.
The new normal for gambling
Going forward, if there was an acceptance, apology or option of redress when clear failings were found, then it would help people feel the industry is serious about cleaning up its act. Change is coming and we must all work together to protect the most vulnerable in society from gambling harm.
It’s unfortunate it appears the gambling regulator, operators and standards body as it stands, seem unlikely to engage with experts by experience when evidence based harm to individuals and regulatory breaches is presented. Let’s hope prohibiting these discussions change soon.