What is our perspective as Quakers?
QAAD approaches its work on gambling-related harm in the same way as it does substance use i.e. by examining the evidence base and working from our Quaker values of compassion and inclusivity. QAAD is guided by the Religious Society of Friends’ in-principle opposition to ‘the promotion of a large-scale lottery by government’, registered in its Public Statements in 1994 and 2004: ‘We are disturbed by the accelerating substitution of National Lottery funds for planned public funding of social projects. Quakers will continue to press the government to fulfill its responsibilities for social and economic welfare through normal public institutions’.
QAAD became focused on gambling harm when the 2005 Gambling Act liberalised the law and regulation. We joined several faith-based groups to give oral evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee which considered the Act. Since then, we have continued to be involved in policy discussions, working collaboratively with other faith groups to argue for measures that would help to reduce risks and harm. We have sat on committees convened by the Gambling Commission, responded to formal consultations (see below), and made representations to elected representatives.
QAAD is a member of the ecumenical Faith Action on Alcohol and Drugs (FAGH) group which provides the opportunity to find common ground regarding gambling reform and to issue joint statements and responses, as appropriate.
We support the view that the gambling industry has framed ‘the problem’ as being located within the individual (‘problem gamblers’), with insufficient focus given to specific products and environmental factors. This serves to divert attention away from the intrinsic, highly addictive quality of products, and the harm experienced by a much larger number of ‘normal’ customers, their families and friends.
A further, serious concern is children’s and young people’s exposure to gambling advertising on TV, online, and via mobile phone apps, particularly during sports events. Evidence is also emerging about the risks related to online gaming e.g. virtual tokens and ‘loot boxes’. Whilst no money is involved, some researchers argue that they are used to ‘groom’ players to engage in gambling behaviour, increasing the risk of their participation in mainstream gambling as adults.
White Paper: ‘High Stakes – Gambling Reform for the Digital Age’ (2023) read here
In April 2023, the government published its long-anticipated white paper on its review of the 2005 Gambling Act. QAAD submitted a response to the consultation on the reforms in 2019, highlighting the harm caused by gambling:
‘The moral and practical question for legislators – which was not squarely faced when the Gambling Act was passed – is whether profit for the industry, and an increase in gambling opportunities for the consumer are worth [these] human costs.’
QAAD joined the House of Lords’ Peers for Gambling Reform group, the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, and the Royal Society for Public Health, amongst many others, in a call for future legislation to be based firmly on a public health approach, with robust restrictions (and a potential complete ban longer-term) on gambling advertising, and the introduction of a statutory levy to provide independent and sustainable funding for treatment, public health education and research.