4 minutes to read
It’s time to cut the gambling industry‘s cynical and patronizing public relations short and legislate for what people really need – a public health approach to the risks of gambling.
On November 1, the gaming industry will begin its annual contortion festival – Safer Gambling Week. After spending £ 1.5bn every year to get people to gamble more, they spend a week telling the same people to know their spending limits and to ‘take the time to think’.
This week-long gaming industry conference – with the support of industry-funded charitable partners – will escalate to full condescension by reminding their customers that they might want to think about gambling in more ways. responsible, whatever that means, and will offer some “tools” to help such as setting voluntary deposit limits.
I work for a charity, Gambling with Lives, which supports families whose lives have been shattered by gambling-related suicide. Research shows that every working day two people commit suicide because of gambling in the UK. And anyone familiar with drug addiction knows that if it was just a matter of deciding to “set your limits” or “take time to think”, no one would suffer from gambling disorder or commit suicide because of it.
Independent academics agree. Research shows there is no credible evidence that safer gambling messages reduce gambling – no wonder the industry is so happy to spray them on all of their products.
Drug addiction is the business model of the gaming industry. Sixty percent of the gaming industry’s profits come from the 5 percent of its customers who are addicted or at risk for addiction, and for online gaming, this reaches 86 percent of the profits of only 5 percent of customers. The gambling industry has the data to step in to help people, but time and again it chooses to entice them to gamble more by making them gamble with aggressive marketing, free bets, and other incentives.
None of this is mentioned during Safer Play Week, of course. All safer play messages have one thing in common – they focus on you – the individual: YOU should set limits on YOUR play. YOU should take the time to think it over. YOU shouldn’t play when you are angry. What other industry would sponsor its customers in this way and treat them with such contempt?
Research shows there is no credible evidence that safer gambling messages reduce gambling
And this is where the real purpose of it all lies: to obscure the role of highly addictive products and predatory practices in the gaming industry and to shift the blame for addiction onto the individual. If it was really about making the game safer, the story would be incredibly different.
The cynical distortion to protect profits is bad enough, but its impact on individuals is even darker. By saying the problem is with you you should have fun and the industry plays no part in your misery, they stigmatize a psychological disorder and distort its causes, casting shame, self-blame and confusion on them. people who have been addicted. gambling. At Gambling with Lives, we know what that can lead to. We read the suicide notes.
This year the stakes could not be higher given the government’s review of the gambling law. If the industry is allowed to define the narrative, the policy implications should concern us all. It is therefore particularly worrying that the industry regulator, the Gambling Commission, sees fit to support Safer Gambling Week. A regulator should set the agenda to improve the safety of the industry it regulates – not the other way around.
So what is the alternative? What is needed, and what Safer Play Week stands in the way, is a comprehensive approach to public health gambling. This would include tightening regulations for the riskier products – making them safer – and changing industry practices forever, ending gambling advertising and incentives, adopting controls on gambling. ‘accessibility for players and the establishment of a legal tax to finance independent research, prevention and treatment.
If the government breaks the Safer Gambling smokescreen and passes the Gambling Act review, we may not have to witness the uncomfortable contortions of the industry again next year. The gaming industry should take the time to think about it.
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