Betting industry faces 'existential threat' says GambleAware chair
Gambling minister Tracey Crouch has told the industry it needs to take a hard look at the advertising it produces, while the voluntary system operators use to tackle problem gambling is in the “last chance saloon".
Delegates at GambleAware's fifth annual harm minimisation conference on Wednesday also heard a hard-hitting speech from the charity's chair Kate Lampard, who said the gambling industry faced an "existential threat" and that a "massive change in attitudes" was needed.
The government is in the midst of a consultation on its gambling review, which included the announcement of a television campaign to highlight the risks from gambling, a move to which Crouch gave her backing.
She added: "I urge all of you here who are responsible for advertising to take a hard look at what you're producing.
"As you'll be aware, there are strict controls on what gambling advertising can show, and indeed when it can show it, but it's still very unpopular.
"In a world where every smartphone provides an opportunity to gamble, you need to be more careful than ever that your adverts are responsible and don't push the boundaries."
Crouch also said she expected operators to contribute at least the recommended 0.1 per cent of their gross gambling yield – the amount retained after winnings have been paid out – to GambleAware.
The charity has complained it is being under-funded, while a number of firms and trade bodies have backed calls for a statutory scheme.
Crouch added: "We want everyone to work together to improve the voluntary system and make sure it provides the support needed, but if it doesn't we won't hesitate to explore alternative avenues including a statutory levy. So this, folks, is really the last chance saloon on this."
Lampard, who was appointed GambleAware's chair in June last year, had even stronger words for the industry.
"It seems to be that current public opinion represents a serious existential threat to the future success of the gambling industry in Britain," she warned, citing Gambling Commission figures which have shown declining public trust in the sector.
"This isn't a good place to be," Lampard added. "My experience of the industry thus far is that it's not wholly undeserving of all the flak it gets."
Lampard, a former barrister who was appointed by the Department of Health to oversee its investigation into the activities of Jimmy Savile and who headed an investigation into allegations of abuse at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, added: "I didn't think I was easily shocked but I must say I was at the very least surprised by the first impressions this industry offered me.
"Some in very senior positions seemed upset that an independent charity might voice its concerns about the impact their business was having on vulnerable people."
'I'm calling for a massive change in attitudes'
Lampard also issued a stinging rebuke to industry leaders who had criticised her following an interview in which she had accused operators of "taking the mickey" in their donations to the charity.
"After my first interview with a national newspaper some were brave enough to email me directly, and others through our chief executive Marc [Etches], to fire very obvious shots across my bow," she said.
"Who did I think I was and what did I think I was doing.
"Well gentlemen, it didn't work and I'm determined GambleAware will continue to say what we see in order to deliver on our charitable goals."
Lampard added: "I'm today calling for a massive change in attitudes. This may require some change in personnel.
"The testosterone needs to make way for more enlightened women and men who take a long-term view."
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