We know the vast majority of people can enjoy gambling safely however we must provide effective support to people who do experience problems. It is vital that we bring people’s attention to the expert advice and support available to them.
There are some fantastic support networks and resources, many established and informed by people with lived experience, to help all ages better understand the risks and the wider impact it can have someone’s mental health, lifestyle and relationships.
I believe there are some talented people in the sector who are genuinely working hard to improve player protection and safer gambling initiatives. But I do think the customer facing teams in gambling operators can improve by understanding gambling-related harm through the powerful lens of lived-experience.
The YGAM charity was founded by people with lived experience and we now employ numerous people who use their negative experience with gambling to make a positive difference. When utilised correctly, their unique insight can inform the approach to prevent others experiencing similar harms.
Safer gambling training for operators
One key initiative we are promoting this week is our Safer Gambling Training for operators. We’ve joined up with the team at Betknowmore UK to launch a digital learning programme to provide gambling industry employees with specialist online training to strengthen player protection standards and effectively safeguard consumers from gambling-related harm. The resources have been developed using a methodology known as ‘flipped learning’ derived from Neuroscience studies on how the brain learns.
Both our organisations are led by individuals with lived experience and the collaboration combines our specialist knowledge, insight and research to create what is believed to be the most advanced and comprehensive training programmes globally. The digital training content is all relevant to the Gambling Commission’s latest LCCP requirements and has received funding from regulatory settlements to support the delivery of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling-related Harms. The Canada-based Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is also involved in the alliance acting as independent evaluation partners.
We believe there needs to be a recognised standard that colleagues within the sector can take with them throughout their career, and which includes regular mandatory updates and refresher courses. A consistent high level of customer service is needed and would really build trust with regulators and it would encompass all consumer facing staff working across every sector.
We are working across all regions to deliver the national ‘Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme’ in partnership with GamCare and supported by members of the Betting & Gaming Council.
The YGAM team has risen to the challenges of lockdown by accelerating the digital transformation of our education resources and using virtual classrooms to deliver interactive sessions. Despite Covid-19, we’re now reaching more teachers, more parents, more students, more communities and therefore more young people.
Our key message for Safer Gambling Week is to highlight the importance of education. Evidence-led education is essential if we are to prevent gambling-related harms and safeguard future generations. I’m extremely proud to work with a talented team at YGAM made up of mainly teachers, parents and people with lived experience.
Football Index has this year donated its shirt sponsorship for Nottingham Forest and Queens Park Rangers football clubs to YGAM for their games this week. Queens Park Rangers will be wearing special edition shirts for their London derby against Watford this Saturday, 21 November, while Nottingham Forest will be sporting the shirts for their game against Bournemouth on Tuesday, 24 November. This is an incredible opportunity to raise the profile of the charity especially as the Nottingham Forest match will be shown live on Sky Sports to an audience of millions.
Football Index will also be supporting YGAM’s work with a £5,000 donation. This follows Football Index’s earlier initiative this year, which saw it launch a new Gambling Awareness Initiative with Nottingham Forest Football Club, highlighting the importance of safer gambling and helping to educate football supporters within local communities. We’re enormously grateful to both clubs and Football Index for their fantastic support.
We’re also working closely with the National Union for Students (NUS). The NUS represents around seven million students amounting to more than 95% of all higher and further education unions in the UK. Student life has changed dramatically this year due to Covid-19, and this could have a detrimental impact on student wellbeing and increase the risks associated with gaming and gambling at university.
Our new Student Hub website (www.students.ygam.org) is the first of its kind; supporting students to enjoy a university experience free from gaming and gambling-related harm.
Created with input from current students, the website features interactive elements along with lived-experience case studies to further highlight the real issues of gambling and gaming harms on university campuses. We will use this online portal to gather insights and share findings with our partners at other universities and students unions.
It was particularly encouraging to see DCMS Minister Nigel Huddleston publicly supporting what Safer Gambling Week is trying to achieve. We need the Government and all parliamentarians to engage properly with the topic and understand the evidence and issues to deliver what is needed in the upcoming review of the Gambling Act.
A ministerial team that is well-briefed and has engaged to acquire the knowledge needed to drive meaningful policy changes can only be a positive for everyone.
It is also fantastic to see the mainstream media taking an interest in Safer Gambling Week and the purposeful work that some charities are doing to help people. The British gambling industry is full of house-hold brands that have the marketing power to get people’s attention and get people talking about an issue.
The Safer Gambling Week campaign provides small organisations like YGAM with a unique platform to reach millions of people through a variety of platforms which is just not achievable during other weeks of the year. In the build up to this year’s campaign, we’ve had media requests from countless mainstream outlets leading to further opportunities to raise awareness of the impactful work we do.
We are still a small organisation with very ambitious plans so our partnerships and collaborations help us reach thousands of young people across all regions of the country. The profile and calibre of organisations who are enthusiastic to work with us really highlights the quality of our programmes and the importance of our social purpose.
Looking ahead, I believe we are moving in the right direction and the awareness campaigns must continue to grow and reach more people. There will always be a wide spectrum of opinions on what needs to be done to reduce gambling harms and all these views should be welcomed.
The Government review will be an opportunity to raise standards and improve public trust in the sector. We need a diverse spread of perspectives to engage respectfully in the debate.
As our work continues to get positive recognition, we will continue to engage with organisations from all sectors to ensure work has a positive influence on the lives of young people. A collaborative approach is the most effective way to reduce gambling-related harm.
As a harm-prevention charity, we are pleased to be supporting Safer Gambling Week and we are committed to collaborating with anyone who shares our vision.
Daniel Bliss is director of external affairs at the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) and is responsible for the charity’s communications, marketing and public affairs. Daniel joined YGAM this year having previously worked for the Gambling Commission for 3 years in several roles within their communications team. He has also held roles in politics and regional press. Alongside his role, Daniel is working with iGB to produce and co-host the Gambling Review Podcast with guests including Michael Dugher, Carolyn Harris MP and Lord Foster.