The UK gambling industry association, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) have issued a strong warning to UK lawmakers over the tone and content of the current debate over gambling.
The Chief Executive of the BGC, Michael Dugher, has said that there was too much ‘fiction’ involved in the debate. Dugher, who is a former Labour party MP, was writing for Politicshome.com and said that he was aiming to put the record straight at a time when the gambling industry was under fire and when there was an ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
In his article, Dugher said that the rate of addiction in the UK was 0.5% of the adult population, a rate that was low by international standards, and that the figure had remained around or below 1% throughout the last two decades. He also made the point that the betting industry paid roughly £3 billion in tax revenue and employed 100,000 people in the UK, but that the anti-gambling lobby was seeking to generate ‘hysteria’ based on the idea that there had been a dramatic increase in gambling.
Dugher emphasised that the BGC agreed with the aim of the government review that the process should provide for the protection of both vulnerable people and children in an open and fair gambling economy that is also free of crime.
He also pointed out that while the government review was likely to focus on the issue on gambling in sport, that there had been a link between betting and sports such as football and horse racing for many years, and that the industry already had a code for socially responsible advertising that ensures no gambling company logos can feature on children’s sports merchandise. He also emphasised that the BGC members had a zero tolerance approach to under-18s gambling, and welcomed a recent decision to make it illegal for under-18s to buy National Lottery tickets.
In emphasising the work that the BGC was doing in this area, Dugher highlighted that the organisation was working with a variety of online and social media companies to help to further reduce the exposure of the under-18 cohort to gambling advertising. And he said that these changes had been making a difference, as illustrated by the recent finding of the Advertising Standards Authority that the volume of betting advertisements that appeared on inappropriate platforms had dropped by 93%.
In the area of protecting young people from gambling, Dugher said that this was of vital importance and emphasised the BGC’s investment of £10 million in the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, a scheme that is delivered to school pupils across the UK. According to Dugher, between January and September last year, the programme, in conjunction with gambling charity Gamcare, trained 3,800 education professionals who have gone on to teach more than 65,000 young people about the dangers of gambling.
He said that the UKGC would be continuing this important work in 2021, but urged ministers to focus on getting the balance right between protecting the freedom and enjoyment of millions who enjoy a bet, and ensuring that the industry does more to protect the young and 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.”