Gambling

Supplementary written evidence submitted by GAMCARE (GA 97)

Education

We believe strongly that in the medium term it is vital that we improve awareness of the risks of gambling amongst young people and those that can influence them, particularly parents and teachers. The latest research suggests that there are already c60,000 12-15 year olds who are problem gamblers. The promotion of gambling products has become more pervasive, and so the teenager's perception of gambling as an acceptable leisure pursuit is being reinforced with no effort to ensure they are equipped to gamble safely. Yet only 5% of parents recognise gambling as an issue on which their children need help and guidance. Nor is there any bespoke treatment provision for young people.

GamCare is already developing new services for young people, including a dedicated website, online forums and social networking. We have made two further proposals which we recommend to the Committee:

That the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education school curriculum should specifically cover gambling. Our submission to the DfE's consultation on PSHE (which closes on 30th November) setting out the case for this is attached. We would be pleased if the Committee felt able to add their support to our proposals;

That the industry, through the GREaT Foundation should urgently consider for funding the programme which we together with a number of expert partners have already designed to develop, test and deliver awareness education for 12-15 year olds. We would pilot this in 3 regions, evaluate the pilots and then be able to roll out the programme across the country. Each pilot requires in the region of £75k over two years, plus evaluation costs.

Industry advertising

At present, under the terms of a voluntary industry code, most operators include the "gambleaware" website in their advertisements (broadcast and other media). On many ads the website reference is easy to miss, and the gambleaware website has only had very limited success. The Committee were keen to explore other options.

We recommend that all industry advertisements should carry the national helpline number perhaps with the message "Gamble responsibly. Need help? Call GamCare 0845 6000 133". This might be instead of, or as well as, the gambleaware website. This approach has several advantages:

It raises awareness that there are risks and provides a direct channel for help

It would reach the non-gambling partners or families of problem gamblers - people who are vital to both identifying and helping problem gamblers, and who also can be seriously affected themselves, but who do not visit gambling premises or websites themselves so are unaware of the helpline number

There is no extra cost involved.

We wrote to John Penrose in September 2010 recommending this as a "win-win" measure - non-regulatory, no costs, significant public benefit, and he replied saying he was seeking advice, but we have heard nothing since. (Copies of letters enclosed.)

Expanding face-to-face counselling

At present we and our network of counselling providers provide face-to-face counselling covering c70% of Great Britain. In the uncovered areas - e.g. Wales, Cornwall, parts of Yorkshire - we can offer online counselling but this is often not appropriate or acceptable for the client. We hope that GREaT will give priority to face-to-face coverage across the whole of Great Britain in 2012. We have already assessed need across the country and would be able quickly to commission providers if funding were agreed. It would be helpful if the Committee identified this as a priority in their report.

Improving self-exclusion

Whilst the provision of self-exclusion facilities is effectively a requirement of the Gambling Commission's licence, the Committee has heard from several sources about the inadequacy of current arrangements:

Exclusion processes in retail outlets can be time-consuming and off-putting for players

Whilst an operator can circulate self-exclusion details to other outlets it has in the neighbourhood, there is no inter-operator co-operation. Thus to self-exclude from every betting shop, arcade, and casino in a given area a gambler has to deal with each individually

The operation of self-exclusion largely depends on the vigilance of staff and there are many examples of the system breaking down.

It is clear that the creation of a cross-operator self-exclusion system, ideally crossing gambling sectors as well, would be in the interests of the player and the industry. But there are many issues - to do with competition confidentiality, data protection etc - to be considered. So far the industry has not come forward with a proposal that works.

We are working with Salford University and a number of online operators on precisely these issues. We were approached to do so because GamCare, as an independent charity, can act as a trusted broker between the different operators' interests, and also has a brand which is well-known and trusted by players. We would welcome the opportunity to expand this work and take it forward with the backing of Ministers and the Gambling Commission. Funding could be provided by GREaT.

Why we do not advocate a statutory levy.

We are opposed to the introduction of a levy for three main reasons:

we believe that all companies who benefit financially from gambling should be encouraged to contribute to the research, education and treatment programme; that includes a large proportion of the leisure sector, internet service providers, banks, and many, many others. But the legislation restricts a levy only to those who hold operating licences, which would unnecessarily constrain contributions as a whole, and so place a greater, and unfair, burden on those companies subject to it;

a statutory levy turns voluntary contributions into "Government" money, bringing with it two risks: first, the bureaucracy and costs of collection and distribution rise inexorably (this was our recent experience of the tripartite system, which sought to behave as if it was handling a levy, with a consequent, and rapid, growth in bureaucracy and costs); and secondly, over time there is a real danger of the "hypothecated" levy funds being diverted into, and lost within, HM Treasury's general pot;

working on a voluntary basis with industry operators rather than with "pressed men" is much more likely to produce a healthy understanding and implementation of social responsibility principles and practices.

November 2011

Prepared 11th January 2012