There are no economic benefits to the forms of gambling which are reliant on technology rather than labour, says the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.
As someone who has profited substantially from gambling, I never thought I would be speaking in favour of gambling reform. However, I am not anti-gambling, but absolutely opposed to promulgation of fake news to justify the gambling status quo.
There are simply no economic benefits to the forms of gambling that are most reliant on technology rather than labour. The primary examples being remote gambling and FOBTs. Austerity has resulted in squeezed living standards, financial hardship and increased vulnerability, particularly in deprived areas. Easily accessible gambling, which is aggressively marketed, is bound to attract the financially vulnerable.
PwC was due to publish a report in April on defining gambling harm, under the guidance of the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) and commissioned by the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) – now trading as GambleAware – 12 full years after the 2005 Gambling Act, which instituted the prevention of harm to the young and vulnerable as a licensing objective. It is only now that the RGSB and RGT are trying to actually define what harm is.
So why the delay with the PwC report? Could the report run counter to the industry-friendly narrative propagated by the RGT?
The International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction (IJMHA), a prestigious publication concerned with those public health issues, recently published a critique by Hancock and Smith of the Reno Model. US casino driven gambling expansion prompted operator-funded academics to concoct the Reno Model to shift the blame of gambling harm from governments, regulators and operators onto individuals. But blaming individuals alone is neither scientifically sound nor an effective basis for public health policies.
Two of the three original architects of the Reno model are on the RGT machines research advisory panel. This has enabled the bookies to make incorrect statements such as, “Betting shops are the safest places to gamble”. It will be interesting to see if these academics will respond to the damning indictment of the Reno Model in the IJMHA.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced it is launching an enforcement action against gambling firms, in conjunction with the Gambling Commission. This relates to whether there have been breaches of Consumer Protection Law based on the terms and conditions of remote gambling offers and withdrawal of funds procedures.
The Campaign position, as explained in a submission to the CMA and the DCMS review, is that the Gambling Commission has failed to interpret the “fair and open” licensing objective broadly enough. Deceptive offers should never have been allowed and there should be parity of deposit and withdrawal procedures.
The 2005 Gambling Act does not apply to Northern Ireland (NI), so remote gambling and FOBTs were never legalised there. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) can now ask the Conservatives to do something – and there is an easy solution.
The DUP can ask DCMS to instruct the Gambling Commission that it should change the License Conditions and Codes of Practice, so that revenues from FOBTs and remote gambling are not allowed from NI. As one of the licensing objectives is “no association of gambling with crime”, and illegal operation of gambling is a crime, and legitimizing the proceeds of illegal gambling is criminal money-laundering, this should have already been dealt with.
Austerity has bitten into NI as hard as many other parts of the UK, impacting the young as much as anyone. Advertising and marketing of addictive gambling content to the young is inexcusable. No wonder the young feel so disenfranchised. Young people are starting to learn that rich old white men, protected by offshore privileges, do not care about them or the harm they suffer.