Brigid Simmonds Calls for Evidence-led Approach on Gambling Addiction

In an interview with RacingTV, BCG chair Brigid Simmonds said that the Gambling Commission’s potential cap on gambling losses is too severe, as problem gambling levels remain unchanged.

Problem Gambling Numbers Have Not Increased

The Betting and Gambling Council (BGC) is determined to have an “evidence-led” approach to the problem-gambling issue, Chair Brigid Simmonds told RacingTV on Sunday. Problem gambling levels have not increased above 0.5% for the past 20 years, she added, despite reports of a rise in problem gambling since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic by charity Gordon Moody Association.

There are contrasting opinions about the gambling review and the Gambling Commission’sconsultation on customer affordability, which pitched a potential £100 cap on online gambling losses unless the player proves they can afford to lose more, will run until January 12, Ms. Simmonds said. Severe measures could drive players to an illegal gambling market.

The BGC has been running affordability trials alongside the Gambling Commission and will have four months to put in evidence, keeping in mind its goal to set up a “consistent and national scheme.” The Gambling Review has been in talks to provide resources to the Gambling Commission to deal with black market.

Need for More Moderate Measures to Tackle Problem Gambling

The whistle-to-whistle ban, which forbids adverts to be shown five minutes before and after a live sporting event, has diminished the amount of TV gambling advertisements seen by young people by 97%.

Over lockdown, the number of messages promoting safer gambling practices was increased by 150%, and the BGC aims to do more to tackle problem gambling, Ms. Simmonds commented. However, there should be an alternative to forcing players to produce their tax information in order to gamble. The council encourages customers to set deposit limits and the implementation of a flagging system is a possibility.

With 30 million people regularly taking part in gambling activities in the UK with no problem whatsoever, it is important to not “intervene in the wrong way”, while simultaneously teaching and promoting responsible gambling practices, she added.

All Industry Actors Must Promote Responsible Gambling

Unfortunately the gambling industry has been the sole funder of research, education, prevention and treatment of problem gambling. The government announced last year the introduction of 22 clinics in the UK to provide support to problem gamblers, but delays due to the pandemic reduced this number to three openings. People harmed by problem gambling tend to have problems in other areas, Ms. Simmonds said, and it is crucial to deal with the whole problem of which gambling could be a very small part.

The horse racing industry has to step up and be supportive, as the £350 million a year currently allocated to racing via the betting industry will decrease if more restrictions are implemented. The potential Levy reform will also have to be part of the discussion, she declared. All actors of the industry must partner up to deal with the problem gambling issue, and put safer gambling “at the heart of all […] sponsorship agreements.”

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