- The present system of financing gambling treatment, prevention and research through an annual voluntary levy of approximately £5-£6 million administered by the industry-led Responsible Gambling Trust, does not command respect and should be reformed. It should be replaced by a mandatory levy, including a proportionate contribution from National Lottery takings, substantially increased in size (to at least £50 million annually), and administered by a body that is completely independent of the industry.
- Treatment, prevention and research should be decoupled so that the Responsible Gambling Trust no longer commission research and instead projects are selected by national research councils supported by ring-fenced revenue. This decoupling would enable a new knowledge base to grow and restore faith in field. The current arrangements are completely inappropriate and contrary to best practice in alcohol and tobacco research.
- A minimum age of 18 years should apply to all electronic gambling / gaming machines (excluding coin-push and prize-grab games) whatever their stake and prize sizes. This would remove the anomaly whereby children and young people in Britain, unlike in other jurisdictions, are permitted to play on category D machines. The present position is inconsistent with a major purpose of the Gambling Act 2005, to protect children from harm from gambling.
- Television advertising of any form of gambling should not be permitted before 9 p.m. This would also bring regulations more into line with the principle of protecting children from harm.
- In Government, gambling should be seen as a cross-department issue, with the Department of Health, Home Office, and Department for Culture Media and Sport having regular and ongoing inputs. The Minister with chief responsibility for gambling should be a Department of Health Minister, reflecting an important shift towards seeing gambling first and foremost as a public health matter.
- Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), which offer high-stake gambling on virtual casino-type games, should not be permitted in venues outside casinos. This would deal with what has become the most dangerous form of highly accessible gambling and would reverse the process whereby high street betting shops are becoming town centre ‘mini-casinos’.
- Any proposed new form of gambling, mode or type of venue, should be subject to a full social, health and economic impact assessment. This would be designed to avoid the kind of mistake that was made when, some years ago, FOBTs were permitted in British betting shops.
- A national programme of treatment for problem gambling should be put in place ensuring that health services in all areas include facilities for the treatment of those with gambling problems and for their families.
- The regular, three-yearly, British Gambling Prevalence Survey should be reintroduced, but with a better balance between questions about gamblers and questions about the products they gamble on.
The national wealth service: Problem gambling is a health issue
Whilst it is good to see that you agree that disordered gambling is a public health issue, it is interesting that you seem to take a slightly different view in your recent publication for the Association of British Bookmakers, (Problem gambling in Great Britain: A brief review, July 2014), where you conclude:
“This brief review has demonstrated that problem gambling in Great Britain is a minority problem that effects (sic) less than 1% of the British population and that the prevalence rate is much lower than in most other countries. Problem gambling also appears to be less of a problem than many other potentially addictive behaviours. The latest British research tends to suggest that the prevalence rate of problem gambling is slightly declining. Data also appears to suggest that since 2010, that rate of problem gambling in England has dropped by around 40% but the rates of problem gambling in Scotland have held relatively stable. Rates of pathological gambling appear to be extremely low and in some surveys were not even reported as the base sizes were simply too small”
Real world figures are probably significantly higher as research has found that 60% of gambling addicts would either refuse to participate, or lie about the extent of their gambling in a prevalence survey. (Australian Government Productivity Commission, Gambling 2010 Inquiry Report)
The last British Gambling Prevalence Survey in 2010 estimated that there were over 450,000 adult gambling addicts in the UK – an increase of more than 200,000 since the previous survey in 2007, each with an average debt of £17,500. Another 900,000 people were at “moderate risk” of becoming disordered gamblers, while 2.7 million more displayed “some risk factors”. (British Gambling Prevalence Surveys, NatCen, 2007, 2010). Remarkably, Britain is one of the few countries to allow children to gamble. The result is > 60,000 young people are suffering from disordered gambling or gambling addiction. (British Survey of Children, the National Lottery and Gambling 2008-09: Report of a quantitative survey, IPSOS Mori, 2009)
It is estimated that for every disordered gambler at least 10 other family members, friends and colleagues are also directly affected (The Social Impact of Problem Gambling, Gordon Moody Association, 2014) – this means that an absolute minimum of 5 million people are directly affected.
The social cost of gambling to the UK economy was estimated in 2012 as £3.8 billion. (Gamcare Annual Review and Plan 2012-15, 2012).
A Losing Bet? Alcohol and Gambling: Investigating Parallels and Shared Solutions, a report by Alcohol Concern and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, recommended that the availability of gambling should not be allowed to increase and that special care should be taken with new technologies.
Professor Jim Orford has said that:
“no new form of gambling or significant development of an existing form should be allowed to become legal or to be made available without a proper social and health impact assessment. If that had been done in the case of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs or Category B2 gaming machines), the problems associated with them which are now causing so much concern might have been avoided”
— rethink gambling (@rethinkgambling) September 26, 2014
— Gambler's Help (@gamblershelp_au) September 24, 2014
— Priory Group (@PrioryGroup) September 26, 2014
“Gambling addict stole £20,000 from charity.” Addiction can cause you to do terrible crimes. Find the help you need. http://t.co/KG6oww7tUF
— KnowTheOdds (@KnowTheOdds) September 22, 2014
We believe that the liberalisation of gambling, enabled by the Gambling Act 2005, combined with the absence of any challenge to the growth of the gambling industry, have had a negative effect on public health in the UK.
It appears irresponsible of government to pursue the growth of gambling when the true social costs of gambling may exceed the revenue from duty and taxation. The Gambling Commission, the current regulator, openly acknowledges the desirability of the growth of gambling industry profits:
Matthew Hill, Gambling Commission Director of Regulatory Risk and Analysis, in oral evidence taken before the Joint Committee on the Draft Deregulation Bill, Monday 21/10/2013.
“ We take a slightly different view… we already have a statutory aim to permit gambling, which is not really a million miles away from a growth duty anyway.We are quite used to taking an interpretation that builds the desirability of growth into our action.”
rethink gambling addiction prevention model
We are founding the UK’s first ever Gambling Addiction Awareness Week which will be held from 1st December 2014 to 7th December 2014.
Most other developed countries already hold an awareness week, in addition to this, we are also proposing a UK National No Gambling Day.
If you can help make this happen, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
rethink gambling’s objectives are to:
“enhance the prevention, awareness and treatment of gambling addiction whilst promoting improved education and advocating a public health response to the issue”