The UK Gambling Commission has set out a new three-year plan that will see businesses, regulators, charities and health bodies work together for the first time to deliver significant improvements in the prevention and treatment of gambling harms.
The new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms which launched Thursday will see stakeholders combine their efforts to deliver on two strategic priority areas laid out by the Gambling Commission.
The first is focused on education and prevention and aims to make significant progress towards a clear public health prevention plan which includes the right mix of interventions. This will involve determining appropriate interventions at both the population and individual level, as well as understanding which activities are less effective, or counterproductive, and should be stopped.
At the population level, this could include regulatory restrictions on product, place and provider, alongside public health messaging and education programmes.
The second strategic priority is a truly national treatment and support service that meet the needs of users. This will seek to address the current shortage in funding, geographical coverage and reach of services for people with gambling problems, particularly when compared proportionately to that of other addictions.
The Commission will also explore the establishment of a new National Research Centre and work is already underway to build a National Data Repository for research purposes, both of which will help to better understand gambling harms and how to respond to them.
“This new strategy will provide us and our partners the opportunity to make faster progress to reduce gambling harms,” said William Moyes, chairman of the UK Gambling Commission. “It will not just benefit the health and wellbeing of those directly affected and in need of support, but also those such as friends, families, communities and wider society.
“We all need to better understand the harms that can be caused by gambling, moving away from simply counting problem gamblers and instead build a greater understanding of the harms experienced. Over the lifetime of the strategy we will better understand the full range of harms and how to protect against them.”
Marc Etches, the chief executive of independent charity GambleAware, said that the relatively low number of problem gamblers accessing support services demonstrates the need for action.
“Gambling is a serious public health issue and we welcome the importance the Gambling Commission has placed on collaboration between organisations to help reduce gambling harms,” Etches said.
“Last year, 30,000 people received advice from the National Gambling Helpline and 9,000 people were treated via a national network of providers we fund. However, less than three per cent of the reported number of problem gamblers access services so it is clear there is much more to be done in raising awareness about this serious public health issue.”
Mims Davies, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, said: “Protecting people from harm should be at the heart of every gambling business. Addiction can ruin lives and it is vital that those who need help are given the right treatment at the right time.
“The Gambling Commission’s strategy reflects our clear expectation that the whole sector must come together to reduce problem gambling and the harm it does to people and their families. Through increased research, education and treatment I want to see faster progress made in tackling this issue.”