Industry self-regulation and lobbying– a concerning future for responsible gambling?
It is very concerning to see what appears slightly antagonistic language now being used by the self-proclaimed safer gambling “standards body” around how “anti-gambling hardliners can’t self-isolate themselves from the facts”.
Whilst a body representing the gambling companies that have had a major part to play in inflicting harm for so many over the years, are perhaps fearful of the “home truths” that will come out from engaging with Experts by Experience (EbEs); it is not helpful for what is in effect dismissive statements towards people who want to make gambling safer for all. For a ‘standards body’ that has an objective to gain credibility with government and media, their messages from yesterday are ill founded.
The Covid-19 outbreak is a serious concern for the world. A period of anxiety, isolation, financial concerns and stress for many. To have the gambling industry state “prohibitionists are using Covid to grab headlines and can’t self-isolate from the facts” works both ways as the industry clearly seems to be using Covid-19 as part of a charm offensive, using selective soundbites to suit their argument. The NHS charities ‘donation’ of £2.6M was the profit from those who lost on the virtual grand national. It won’t take long for 2,600 new addicts who self isolated, anxious, unwell or facing financial problems to lose £1,000 in the coming months to offset this donation.
I personally am not anti-gambling. I believe quite passionately that gambling should be fair, sustainable and run more ethically going forward. Gambling should continue to exist for the majority that enjoy it. The accessibility, advertising and safety are three areas that do need focus. The lack of transparency and complete denial of any wrong doing however by the gambling industry it what is challenging for some of us to accept. There is a legacy of harm that needs to be addressed. There are currently very dangerous products still being marketed via social media at times of crisis. Social media targeted adverts, emails and even daytime tv adverts really should be stopped at this time. What the industry won’t admit to is that there are also secret VIP schemes still running and sophisticated personal data modelling and illegal sharing is all being done with third parties, as gambling firms look to exploit the vulnerable once more.
The industry is making the point about many apparent successes, such as, “verifying ages and intervening with customers who get into difficulty” – again from experience, this is not the case. For myself and many, self-exclusions have been ignored, VIP status allocated with £1,000s in inducements. No affordability checks done in advance. You can easily deposit over £100,000 with no checks, have your staking increase 430% to over £1,000, bet every day of the year or be spiking 650% of a RG report and still get VIP status . It would be fascinating to see actual data on these sort of responsible gambling measures as to where there are improvements in these areas. The self-reporting of data is a start but much larger datapoints need to be considered also before progress can be acknowledged.
Yesterday, the industry lobbying body also stated in a tweet that “It now falls to the BGC, as the industry champion, to drive big changes across the industry and take the lead on safe gambling” – To be the self-proclaimed champions of responsible gambling standards when your members are repeatedly fined millions of pounds is what some people find difficult to accept. A non-existent complaints process for gambling related harm also tells you all you need to know about gambling firms desire to take this seriously. This is an industry who from personal experience will ignore self-exclusions, allocate VIP status, carry out no affordability checks and look to make the most vulnerable people the biggest losers via inducements, all for shareholder profit and greed. The industry seems to promote “staying in control” more in terms of advice also with regards to anxiety and stress. When this is the case, a walk of the dog, playing with the kids, setting limits if feeling angry or not chasing losses, is in reality not going to be taken onboard by many when engulfed by addiction, particularly when the gambling firms will ignore harm markers and seek to exploit more.
Moving forward, whilst both sides of the “safer gambling” debate will have polarized views, it is unclear how a body brought together to help raise safer gambling standards can indeed do so by not properly engaging with all key stakeholders. The companies that created a significant amount of gambling harm would appear to be trying to self-regulate and lobby parliament prior to a new Gambling Act review being undertaken.
The gambling industry is clearly at a crossroads. Greater regulation is coming and the lack of transparency and proper engagement could be a gamble not worth taking.