Public Issues: Gambling
Bookmakers announce closures
In July, William Hill became the first high street bookmaker to announce that it will close shops and make staff redundant, blaming the government’s decision to reduce the maximum stake of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) to £2. It has suggested 700 (30%) shops will shut, with a loss of around 4,500 jobs. Other bookmakers are expected to follow suit. Both William Hill and Paddy Power have confirmed takings have reduced by about 40% since the reform was implemented in April. Our Director responded to the news in an article published in the Friend (July 19th). She confirmed QAAD’s continued support for the change, arguing that the shops and jobs were only created to house machines designed to be highly addictive, and they were clustered areas of disadvantage, targeting customers on low or no income.
National Gambling Strategies
The Gambling Commission launched a new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms (2019-2022) in April. Its specific focus is on the identification and addressing of gambling related harm. The RGSB has been renamed the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG) and QAAD will continue to contribute to its work and attend its meetings.
Further details and updates on the Strategy’s progress updates can be found at: http://www.reducinggamblingharms.org/
The National Responsible Gambling Strategy (2016 – 19) concluded at the end of March. In its final progress report, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) confirmed that, whilst some progress had been made towards its objectives, this had been limited and ‘disappointing’.
QAAD produced a paper summarising our views on the previous Strategy’s outcomes, and responded to the Gambling Commission’s consultation for the new Strategy. Both documents can be read, following the links below. If you would prefer a printed copy, please contact our Director.
A Framework for Measuring Gambling Harms among Children and Young People
This framework was launched by the Gambling Commission in April. It aims to develop current understanding of how gambling harms impact on the health, relationships and finances of young people. An adult framework was published in 2018 and both will be used to inform the new Strategy (see above). Director, Helen Rhodes, said ‘Childhood and adolescence is a key stage of development and any harms experienced at this stage in life can be detrimental to the future development, confidence and potential of young people.’
Gambling with credit cards: Gambling Commission’s Call for Evidence
The Gambling Commission has sought evidence for either limiting or prohibiting customers’ use of credit cards. In our response, QAAD strongly supported the argument for prohibition, highlighting evidence of significant harms for individuals, their families, communities and society. We stressed the increased risks for vulnerable groups, e.g. those experiencing mental ill-health, young people, and challenged the term ‘affordability’ related to spending and losses. Our response is available either following the link below or as a printed copy on request from our Director.
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs)
The maximum FOBT stake was reduced from £100 to £2 on 1st April 2019, following the government’s decision in May 2018. This was warmly welcomed by QAAD and our ecumenical colleagues who have long campaigned for this reform.
The change will help to combat these addictive machines’ impact on problem gamblers and result in a significant reduction, if not the disappearance, of FOBTs altogether. The decision demonstrates the government’s determination to reform gambling in the face of considerable industry pressure to maintain the status quo.
In 2018, QAAD responded to the Department for Digital, Culture and Sport’s consultation on reforming gaming machines, including the maximum stake for FOBTs, and wider social responsibility measures (see ‘Submissions’, below). We are pleased that the widespread campaign, including QAAD Director Helena Chamber’s extensive research and representation in this area, succeeded in persuading the government to reduce the maximum stake.
It has been widely acknowledged that this measure alone will not resolve problem and harmful gambling. There is evidence that some providers are actively marketing alternative products and anticipate a growth in online business – already around 50% of the market.
What is QAAD’s perspective on gambling issues as Quakers?
QAAD approaches gambling in the same way as alcohol and drugs i.e. by looking at the evidence base and working from our values of care and inclusivity.
Why are we so concerned?
QAAD and many others argued against the de-regulatory effects of the 2005 Gambling Act, because there is evidence from other countries that when participation in gambling increases, the numbers of problem gamblers also tends to rise.
Fast, repetitive forms of gambling (such as slot machines and online gambling) are most strongly associated with higher levels of problem gambling – and this risk is increased when they are highly accessible. We have argued for tighter controls on the forms of gambling that meet these criteria, and for detailed, targeted research into their effects. We have expressed our concern that, too often, ‘the problem’ has been defined as being located within individuals, with insufficient focus given to specific products and environmental factors.
QAAD’s action on gambling
QAAD became particularly focused on the issue when the Gambling Act of 2005 liberalised law and regulation. We were one of the faith-based groups that gave evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee which considered the Act.
Since that time, we have continued to be involved as stakeholders in policy discussions, working collaboratively with other faith group representatives to argue for measures that would reduce the risks and harms of problem gambling. We have also responded to a large number of consultations; sat on committees convened by the Gambling Commission (the gambling regulator); made representations to elected representatives; and given oral evidence to Select Committees in 2011 and 2013.
QAAD has recommended that problem gambling needs to be tackled strategically within a public health framework and is pleased that the government now holds this view – and that it has commissioned Public Health England to conduct a review of research into gambling related harm. Progress indeed, but there is much work still to do.
Specific Areas of Concern
Children and young people
We have strong concerns about the level of gambling advertising on TV, online, and via mobile phone apps, particularly at and during sporting events and therefore available to children and young people.
Another area of concern is children’s exposure to ‘virtual gambling’ for tokens or ‘loot chests’ during online gaming. Whilst no money is exchanged, it has been suggested that this may be seen as ‘grooming’ children and young people to start engaging in gambling behaviour with a view to encouraging their participation in mainstream gambling as adults.
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs)
One of our strongest concerns as regards ‘terrestrial gambling’ has been FOBTs which are located in bookmakers. Although a relatively small percentage (around 5%) of people use them, they are associated with a disproportionately high percentage of referrals to support agencies for problem gamblers. This disparity is a clear indicator of risk and harm.
Betting shops tend to be most heavily clustered in poorer areas and research also indicates problem rates are highest amongst people with the lowest incomes. At present, local councils have very limited powers to refuse licences on the grounds of density, even if they have several betting shops already and even if there is strong community feeling against them.
Wider concerns about problem gambling
When the Gambling Act was passed in 2005, it was recognised that there was the potential for an increase in problem gambling, and that resources would be needed to research and address this.
An arrangement was made whereby the gambling industry funds research, education and treatment (RET) for problem gambling on a voluntary basis through a body called GambleAware. While some parts of the industry have responded and donate, this has been patchy and the sums concerned are small in relation to profits. For example, in 2016-17 the ‘Gross Gaming Yield’ of the industry as a whole was £13.8bn, whilst the industry’s contributions to GambleAware were £8m.
We think that the disbursal of the funds raised should be conducted in a way that is entirely independent of the industry, in order to avoid conflicts of interest.
- Increased involvement by the Department of Health with a view to ensuring that problem gambling is placed functionally within a public health framework.
- Public health to be used as a criterion for licensing authorities, to ensure that proliferation cannot occur without local population needs and vulnerabilities being taken into account.
- A substantial increased in funding for treatment/advice services, including for under-age problem gamblers.
- That measures be taken to protect children from advertising via the internet.
- Evidence-based anticipation of, and proactive research into, the problems arising from riskier forms of gambling, and the adoption of preventative measures to address them.
- In this context, internet gambling needs particular focus.
- That there should be no gambling advertising before the 9pm watershed, including sports events.
- A regular national Prevalence Study that is directly comparable with those of 1999, 2004 and 2010, to ensure that trends are captured and fully analysed.
- A statutory levy to fund research, education and treatment, and structures to ensure that funds are completely independently managed.
Over the years, QAAD has contributed numerous submissions to the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), the Gambling Commission, and other bodies concerned with gambling policy. We include the most recent below. For further details of submissions relating to particular topics, or to request a hard copy, please contact Alison Mather.
- Click here for QAAD’s response to the Gambling Commission’s call for evidence on gambling with credit cards (May 2019)
- Click here for QAAD’s response to the Gambling Commission’s consultation on the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms (2019-2022)
- Click here for QAAD’s response to RGSB’s final progress report for the National Responsible Gambling Strategy (2016-19)
- Click here for QAAD’s response to the DCMS’ consultation on Society Lottery Reform (September 2018).
- Click here for QAAD’s response to the Gambling Commission’s consultation on Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (April 2018)
- Click here for QAAD’s response to the DCMS’ consultation on proposals for changes to gaming machines and social responsibility measures (January 2018).
- Click here for QAAD’s comments on the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board’s (RGSB) Interim Strategy report (October 2017).