A Look at Safer Gambling Week

For a number of years, the UK had been seeing an increase in the number of problem gamblers with campaigners claiming very little was actually being done about it. The UK Gambling Commission was formed in 2004, but only to regulate the companies and defend against money laundering. In recent years it’s been seen as an increasingly urgent problem with more scrutiny being placed upon operators and those in the gaming industry. In response, initiatives and campaigns have been formed which include participation from operators to address those that need support.

What is Safer Gambling Week?

Safer Gambling Week was founded in 2017 by the UK Gambling Commission, the Betting and Gaming Council and a number of gambling charities like Gamble Aware – it’s received cross-industry support from a number of big names.

What Does Safer Gambling Week Hope to Achieve?

Safer Gambling Week was set up with the aim to protect problem gamblers and vulnerable people through a number of methods. The initiative works with big-name bookmakers and casinos to increase advertising for the availability of advice and to encourage people that feel like gambling might be an issue to speak up before it gets worse. Safer Gambling Week also seeks to educate young people and anyone who works with young people on the dangers surrounding gambling. The event also educates industry partners to encourage them to better look after their customers. This year Safer Gambling Week was held in the first week of November and whilst some hail the yearly event as a success, it also receives mixed opinions.

Who Gets Involved in Safer Gambling Week?

Several outlets used their influence to promote Safer Gambling Week and talk about why it’s so important. The Racing Post said that everyone should be paying attention to the event. The reporter, John Cabb, said that it was an important time for anyone who has ever placed a bet to reflect on their relationship with gambling. The Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) Michael Dugher also said that responsible gambling should be the industry’s top priority every year. Chris Philp MP, Gambling Minister, echoed Dugher’s sentiment, saying that “Safer Gambling Week is an important moment for the industry to come together and continue to do all it can to promote safer gambling”.

Does Everyone Support Safer Gambling Week?

While most media outlets appreciated the importance of the event, a few titles were more sceptical. Politics Home called it “the political cringe event of the year”, citing that the gambling industry spends £1.5 billion each year on marketing and spending one week telling people to limit their gambling is hypocritical. The author, Will Prochaska, works for the charity “Gambling With Lives” and argued that setting limits or taking time to think wasn’t enough to stop people from developing problem gambling habits.

The critics aren’t entirely wrong. In October BGO Entertainment, the operator behind several big-name casinos, had their license suspended by the Gambling Commission after one of their brands breached the regulations set out in the Gambling Act 2005. In fact when asked the Commission specifically cited “failure to protect consumers” as the main reason for suspending the license.

Will Safer Gambling Week Continue?

There’s no doubt that gambling regulations and initiatives like Safer Gambling Week could do more to protect consumers. A lot of companies will use the event as an opportunity for good press that some may deem hypocritical. However, displaying messages about responsible gambling is a legal requirement under the Gambling Act 2005 and as we’ve found out from BGO’s suspension the Commission follows through.  It is likely that Safer Gambling Week will continue, as the industry is keen to show that it acts responsibly and cares about the wellbeing of the punters that make use of its services.

Safer Gambling Week isn’t the only time that responsible gambling is promoted, but simply a time that the message is pushed even more. It clearly works – gambling charities ensure that they have more volunteers to hand to answer incoming calls and messages throughout the duration of the event. In the last year alone, problem gambling rates have dropped from 0.6% of the population to 0.3%, and the number of people classed as being at “moderate risk” of harm has declined from 1.2% to 0.7%.

Gamblers Taking Responsibility

Although the casino industry does need to act in a reputable way and events such as Safer Gambling Week can certainly help, gamblers need to ensure that they take some responsibility for their own wellbeing too. This is being helped by new gambling legislation that means that online casinos have to show how much time and money someone has spent in each gambling session; ensuring that gamblers find it as easy as possible to keep track of their spending. Not only that but things such as autoplay have also been stopped, meaning that gamblers have to physically press a button to play each game; a much more reliable way for them to keep track of how many games they have played at a time.

The idea behind Safer Gambling Week is to raise awareness of safe gambling practices and ensure that everyone has an idea of what is available to them, especially if they find that gambling is becoming an issue for them. As a general rule, no one should bet more than they can afford to lose and they certainly shouldn’t be risking financial hardship in order to participate in any gaming online. If this is something that seems to be happening, then seeing help is a must and the idea behind Safer Gambling Week is to help ensure that this help is as accessible to everyone as possible.

Yes the industry could do more and the critics aren’t entirely wrong, but if it saves some lives then surely that makes Safer Gambling Week a success.

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