At the 6th edition of the GambleAware Conference, which was held on December 6 at the King’s Fund in London, UK minister for sport and civil society, Mims Davies, spoke about what she sees as the most important challenges currently facing the gambling sector in the UK — problem gambling and effective measures to prevent gambling-related hard. She also made it quite clear that the recent gambling review conducted by the government would not be their last action regarding these matters. These challenges also affect UK online casinos working under regulation.
Davies acknowledged that many people enjoy gambling activities in a responsible manner, but pointed out that gambling-related harm still affects a diverse and significant cross-section of society. She stated that the government “doesn’t want to stop people having fun” but that it has a responsibility to find “the right balance between freedom and protection.”
Reaffirming her stance that the government expects the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) to maintain a strong line on that social responsibility, she said, “Socially responsible business is the only kind we want to see in this sector…to keep it fair, safe and free from crime.”
Encouraging people to Seek for Help
Speaking about concerns stemming from increasing credit card debts, Davies pointed out that the gaming operators are in a unique position that allows them to intervene rapidly is they believe there is a problem. “We need to make people feel supported and encourage them to ask for help,” she said, pointing out that many problem gamblers will try to keep their addiction hidden.
Davies applauded Public Health England for making gambling-related harm a top priority, saying that it is a huge step forward. “We should focus on prevention as well as the cure,” she said.
Switching gears as her speech continued, Davies went on to describe her expectations for gaming operators and the possible consequences they could face if those expectations are not met.
“Profits are not my major concern, reducing gambling-related harm is my primary concern,” she said. The minister said that the government would consider implementing a “mandatory levy” on gaming operators if they felt that operators were not holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to responsible gambling and taking sufficient action help with and prevent problem gambling.
RGD Increase and FOBT
Speaking about the RGD increase to 21 per cent and FOBT stakes being dropped to £2 — both happening in April 2019 — she reiterated the government’s view of “these gaming machines” and the high possibility that there is “risky gambling behaviour” hidden online. She stressed that the key to making progress will be creating a stronger base of evidence based on real research that can be used to educate people both “about what is healthy and enjoyable – and also about what help is available.”
As the minister closed her speech, she again stressed that a great deal of the responsibility for preventing gambling-related harm falls on the operators and that they should make use of the plentiful customer data they already have to help identify potentially harmful behavioral patterns.
“Let me be clear,” she concluded, “I expect the industry to take steps to identify and minimise gambling – related harm,” adding, once again, that the government would not hesitate to “take strong action.”