The myth of responsible gambling

by | Jun 4, 2020

Industry PR and Spin

It is with interest to see the gambling industry begin to promote their annual responsible gambling week for 2020. As part of this very early promotion, we are met with the usual narrative of how the self-regulated gambling industry are yet again “working together” to “raise standards” along with various other regurgitated pledges around ‘safer gambling’. These are meaningless as there are rules, regulations and laws that exist around social responsibility and money laundering that continually are swerved by an industry that places profit well above protection.

As part of responsible gambling week, various artworks, posters, cards and leaflets are going to be available free of charge to “engage” with those potentially at risk of gambling harm.  This number was recently estimated at 2 million in the UK with further research highlighting the impact that gambling harm can indirectly affect a further 6 family or friends.  With up to 12 million in the UK to some degree at risk from the impact of gambling harm, it’s vital the industry do take this seriously.  Various key messages will be used later this year that appear to fully place the onus yet again on the individual and look to deflect any attention away from the operator and regulator.  All of this is done whilst operators continue to dodge social responsibility and money laundering regulations.

Some of the messages that will attempt to make a real difference around responsible gambling include:

  • Ask yourself…have you carried on past your spending limit?
  • Play smart…know when to stop
  • Remember…friends and family are more important than gambling

A personal view, based on experience is that the term responsible gambling is just yet another industry created myth for the purposes of appearing responsible to those in compliance roles, regulators, politicians, media and/or the government.  Responsible gambling week is an event that is almost 6 months away, taking place from the 19th to 25thNovember 2020. One would think that a review of the Gambling Act 2005 may be on the cards, hence the industry is very keen to paint a picture of how morally upstanding it is in terms of caring for customers, for PR and lobbying purposes.  Don’t forget that advertising will continue, and the VIP schemes aimed at targeting the most vulnerable continue to exist, though conveniently swept under the carpet.

Various pledges and commitments yet again look to put the onus fully on the individual. The very mention of things like VIP schemes, lack of due diligence or adherence to responsible gambling codes of practice that operators are expected to comply with are conveniently not mentioned in any of this industry rhetoric. 

Responsible gambling cannot be achieved by global corporations with shareholder accountability for profits. It’s just industry PR and spin to deflect attention from some of their schemes to extract maximum possible losses from the most vulnerable. The entire gambling industry’s business model is based on attracting high value losing gamblers, whilst turning down and limiting winners to keep the shareholders happy.  All of this is underpinned by sophisticated marketing and questionable use of data and automated decision making for profiling purposes.  Compliance is a hinderance to profits.

The gambling industry believe in pushing treatment as the only sustainable outcome vs. actual funding of independent research into prevention as part of a wider public health approach. If the industry really wants to embrace the strapline of the campaign “Let’s Talk About Safer Gambling” then I would urge regulators, operators and stakeholders to be more transparent and engage with those with real lived experience and specifically push a more harder hitting message as to the risks associated with gambling. Whilst schemes such as VIP programmes for the “most loyal” or biggest losers continue to exist, where just 5% of customers can drive 80% of deposits – campaigns such as “responsible gambling” will have a minimal impact and they know this.

About Gambling Insight…

Consumer advocate – disillusioned with gambling industry. Questioning unethical practices – VIP schemes, complaints, responsible gambling & data use.

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