The Betting and Gaming Council’s chief executive, Michael Dugher, has warned MPs that there is ‘too much fiction wired around the debate of gambling’.
Writing in Politicshome.com, the former Labour MP aims to ‘set the record straight’ on the gambling industry as it comes under attack as the review of the 2005 Gambling Act goes through its ‘call-for-evidence’ phase.
In the piece, Dugher exclaimed that the UK’s addiction rate of 0.5 per cent of the adult population is comparatively low against international standards, with rates remaining ‘broadly steady around or below one per cent for the past 20 years’.
Moreover, Dugher emphasised that though the betting industry employs 100,000 people and pays around £3bn in tax, none of this evidence ‘suits the anti-gambling lobby.’
He noted: “The hysteria they seek to generate is predicated on their assertion that there has been an “explosion” of problem gambling.
“At the heart of the government’s review is the determination that the process should ensure ‘the protection of children and vulnerable people in a fair and open gambling economy which is also crime free’. Exactly right.”
On that point, Dugher went on to ‘get a few facts straight’: “The government’s review will undoubtedly focus on betting advertising in sport – betting has been part of sports like horse racing and football for time immemorial – but it’s worth pointing out that our Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising includes a requirement that no betting operators’ logos can appear on children’s merchandise including replica football kits.
“Far from trying to entice children to gamble, regulated members of the Betting and Gaming Council have a zero tolerance approach to betting by under-18s, which is why we welcomed the announcement that they will no longer be able to buy National Lottery products.”
Furthermore, the BGC claimed it is working directly with social media and search platforms to ‘reduce under-18 exposure to advertisements’. Dugher lauded Google’s recent action which allows people to opt out of most gambling advertising on its platform.
He continued: “These changes are clearly making a difference as the Advertising Standards Authority recently announced that, following its latest advertisement review, the number of betting ads appearing on inappropriate sites was down by 93 per cent.”
Dugher concluded that education about the potential dangers of gambling is ‘vitally important’ underscoring the BGC’s ‘unprecedented’ £10m investment in the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, which is delivered to school pupils across the UK.
He added: “Between January and September 2020, YGAM and Gamcare has trained over 3,800 education professionals, who in turn have educated over 65,000 under-18s about the risks of gambling.
“As we look ahead to 2021, and as the Gambling Review gathers pace, we will continue this critical work.
“Ministers have said that they will seek to get the balance right in future changes – protecting the enjoyment of millions of people who enjoy a flutter – whether that’s on sports or on bingo or the Lottery – but at the same time what more can be done to protect the vulnerable.
“This is the right approach. So let’s have “evidence-led” decisions that are based on facts, not the fiction that can too often swirl around this debate.”