ABB code of conduct criticised by Australian academic

11 December 2014

Australian academic Dr Charles Livingstone has slammed the Association of British Bookmaker’s (ABB) responsible gambling and player protection code of conduct for not being effective enough and has called for more to be done to help players in the UK.

Introduced last year, the voluntary code was designed to ease public and political pressure over fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT), which have been heavily criticised by various sources for their addictive nature.

The code introduced measures that have allowed punters to voluntarily pre-commit to certain time and money limits when playing on FOBTs.

However, Livingstone, a senior lecturer at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University in Australia, said the measures in the code are of “low to very low potential efficacy”.

He said that in order to limit expenditure, the code would require “significant modification” to be effective.

The code also requires the removal of ATM cash withdrawal machines from betting shops, but Livingstone criticised this measure as it is “undermined by the availability of cash or credit form other sources”.

Livingstone also hit out at a recent evaluation of the code undertaken by Professor Mark Griffiths – a report that was presented to the government and the UK Gambling Commission.

Despite Griffiths having analysed 15 weeks of data, Livingstone highlighted that this was absent from the evaluation, thus making it “difficult to determine the reliability of Griffiths’ conclusions and reasoning”.

Livingstone also said the evaluation should have been undertaken by independent researchers instead of someone who was involved with the design of the code.

He also went on to state that the review “appears to be almost unfailingly positive, in some cases in contrast to the material presented”.

Livingstone added that the report “represents an apparent attempt to demonstrate adherence to responsible gambling practices that lack an evidence base and are generally favoured by the industry for the purpose of achieving political support for continued self-regulation”.

He added: “If gambling machines are intended to provide a harmless recreational activity, it is difficult to comprehend why a maximum stake of £100 is necessary.”

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling, which is backing calls to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs, voiced its concerns over Livingstone’s findings and called for more to be done to protect players in the UK.

A spokesperson for the campaign group said:  “This illustrates the problems with industry-funded research.

“The evaluation by Mark Griffiths is not objective and its methodology is flawed.

“The bookmakers have marked their own homework by commissioning a complicit academic to continue to control the research agenda by funding and running the Responsible Gambling Trust.

“It is not surprising that the recent research on FOBTs has asked the wrong questions.

“The Government cannot continue to be so naïve in trusting everything the bookmakers produce as supposed evidence.”

Related article: RGT criticised over machine-related problem gambling study