Tuesday, 6 October 2020

GamCare Calls For More Awareness Of Gambling-Related Financial Harm

Gambling-Related Financial Harm

Leading gambling charity GamCare has called on its treatment support workers and stakeholders to raise awareness of gambling-related financial harm just as it launches a brand new tool to help gamers.

In a brand new report by SBC News, GamCare, an independent charity which runs the National Gambling Helpline across the UK and works to support problem gamblers, states that year-on-year around 70% of National Gambling Helpline callers reference gambling debt or some level of financial hardship caused as an effect of gambling.

GamCare previously identified gambling-related financial harm as a key area of concern and over the last few years has been working with its stakeholders to work on ways to better identify problematic behaviour while also working on improving the available support for those suffering from gambling-related financial harm.

Last year, GamCare launched its Gambling Related Financial Harms Programme and worked alongside UK bank organisations, debt advice firms, various gambling support services, and gambling operators to collaborate on broadening the understanding of gambling-related financial harms. Since then, several UK banks have added services which allow users to block gambling transactions on their accounts.

In its report, GamCare revealed that users suffering from gambling-related financial harm will encounter different services to help them address the harm, but found that most gamblers would receive inconsistent advice.

To address this, the charity has launched a new financial toolkit after partnering with an expert advisory group consisting of debt charities and agencies, high-street banks, gambling businesses, and people who have experienced gambling-related harm. The launch of this new tool marks the very first time that these industries and representatives have come together to “address gambling-related financial harm in a unified way”.

The toolkit, which is available for free via GamCare’s website, aims at providing organisations with tools that offer consistent and high-quality communication on the risks of gamblings. It was also created to improve access to support so gambling-related issues can be addressed as early as possible and aren’t left to escalate.

GamCare’s toolkit provides users with tailored material for the banking, debt advice, and gambling treatment sectors, as well as for gambling businesses too. The materials are comprised of best practice advice and are informed by the experiences of people who have suffered from gambling harm themselves.

In a statement, GamCare said: “The toolkit contains core customer messaging, referral pathway guidelines tailored to each sector, and guidance on training staff to give them [the] confidence to support customers who are impacted by gambling harms. Together, these resources can help frontline staff in key industries provide effective, sensitive support to customers and ensure they receive the help they need.”

Anna Hemmings, the CEO at GamCare, said in a statement: “People struggling with gambling present in different ways and often opportunities are missed to provide the support they need. Ensuring that frontline staff are equipped to help and refer to appropriate support is a huge step in improving the outcomes these customers experience. This toolkit, with the support of businesses charities and gambling operators themselves, is vital to putting those pathways in place.”

Maxine Pritchard, the Head of Financial Inclusion and Vulnerability for HSBC UK, added: “We know this is a challenging time for many of our customers, with those who are struggling with gambling being particularly vulnerable.

“We are proud to have collaborated across multiple industries to develop this toolkit which will help ensure we can use it as part of the training we provide our colleagues, as well as building it into our internal procedures. We have already put in place a number of measures to help those affected by gambling, and this toolkit is another positive step to supporting those at risk of financial harm from gambling. We will continue to look at ways in which we can support customers with gambling addictions.”

Helping Financial Harm

As mentioned, many UK banks have now implemented gambling block services to allow users to block all gambling transactions with their accounts. Back in July, digital bank Monzo announced that over 220,000 of its customers have enabled the gambling block service.

A slew of other banks also offer the gambling block service, and they include Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, the Bank Of Scotland, the Royal Bank Of Scotland, Natwest, Santander, and digital banks Starling and Cashplus.

However, a report by GambleAware from earlier this summer revealed that most of these gambling block services do not function correctly as most allow customers to turn the block on and off at will rather than implement a cooling-off period. What’s more, many customers found workarounds simply by using e-Wallets as payment options including Neteller, Skrill, and PayPal. In response to these findings, GambleAware laid out a series of recommendations to banks in order to improve the service and help vulnerable people.

Meanwhile, various gambling firms such as the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and the UK Gambling Commission have been working on improving industry standards and clamping down on the number of people experiencing gambling-related harm.

Last month, the BGC unveiled its new code of conduct on the design of video slots which includes a speed limitation of 2.5 seconds per spin as well as the banning of the Turbo Play feature which allows players to speed up their games, and the ban of multi-slot play which allows users to play multiple slots. It’s thought that both of these new rules will help clamp down on player spending and will help reduce the number of people experiencing gambling-related harm.

What’s more, the Peers for Gambling Reform – the largest group within the House of Lords – has launched a new campaign calling for several changes to be made to the gambling industry. This includes a ban on direct marketing, the implementation of gambling regulation on loot boxes, as well as more effective affordability checks on customers to prevent them from overspending and developing gambling-related financial harm.

The group has also called for a new gambling ombudsman, an overhaul of the VIP and loyalty schemes at online casinos, as well as a mandatory levy on the gambling industry to better fund the research and treatment of problem gambling.