Can the industry speak with one voice about gambling addiction? By Andrew Tottenham, Managing Director, Tottenham & Co July 21, 2020 at 4:58 pm The UK has now had three recent reports into reducing the harm from gambling. The recommendations in these reports run from the sensible to the ridiculous and nearly all, if implemented, will have a negative impact on the immediate financial viability of both online and the offline sectors. When faced with a common threat, the industry responded by forming a single industry group, the Betting and Gaming Council, to speak with one voice. It has been extremely difficult for the industry to get ahead of the curve and to set the agenda, instead having to react after the fact to negative publicity and parliamentary reports. The industry tried to take back control of the agenda prior to the publication of the House of Lords committee report, with the Big Five, bet365, GVC, PaddyPower Betfair, Sky Betting and Gaming and William Hill announcing a commitment to donate £100 million over the next four years to GambleAware, the independent charity that commissions research into, and education and training about, gambling and gambling harms. Unfortunately, some of the thunder was lost when a new charity, Action Against Gambling Harms, recently set up by Lord Chadlington, complained that they were to receive none of the money and the “industry’s poodle”, GambleAware, was to receive it all. This led to calls for the money to be collected by statutory levy and doled out by the Government. The fact that Chadlington’s charity had not been accredited by the British Gambling Commission and so would not have been eligible to receive the funds did not make it into the media reports. Why let facts ruin a good story? It also didn’t help that immediately following the publication of the Lord’s report, Kenny Alexander, Chairman GVC, came out praising the report and its findings. I doubt he had time to read it, let alone analyse the implications. I am sure some operators were not quite so enthusiastic. Speaking with one voice takes discipline. Somewhere, we have lost the plot. Prof Peter Collins used to say that we should have a strategy, understand what needs doing, and cost it, then set the priorities. We seem to find ourselves just throwing a lot of money at the problem without really understanding how much is needed. The GB Gambling Commission is now consulting on speed of play of gambling games. This reminds me of a presentation I used to give. To summarise: A government was concerned about the harms from drinking alcohol, so they commissioned research. The recommendation from the research was that changing the colour of the bottles to green would reduce excess consumption. The industry was instructed to change all the bottles to green. They did, but it did not work. So more research was commissioned. The new recommendation was that the colour of the actual drink needed to change. That didn’t work either, so more research was commissioned, and the recommendation was the size of all bars should be reduced. Needless to say, no luck with that one either. Further research suggested slowing the rate of pour into the glass … and so it went on. It was none of these. It was the alcohol. Alcoholics are addicted to alcohol. And so it is with gambling. Strange as it may appear to some, to my mind, it is the activity of gambling that is addictive. We can tinker with stake and prize limits, frequency and volatility of play, colours of the games, and limit supply, etc., but it will have little effect. Of course, slowing down the speed of play or reducing stake limits will reduce speed of loss, but addicts will just play longer (or find places where they can get fast games and high stakes). They cannot help it. Rather than reduce the enjoyment of the majority who enjoy gambling without suffering any harm, should we not be spending our money understanding how we can identify those at risk of harm early on and making sure that they are not negatively impacted by gambling?