Leading UK operators set out plans for safer gambling environment

2 July 2019

GVC Holdings, bet365, Flutter Entertainment, William Hill and Sky Betting and Gaming have followed up plans to increase funding for problem gambling treatment and safer gambling by setting out a plan of action to create a safer gambling environment. 

The centrepiece of the plan is the commitment to raise the current voluntary contribution towards funding problem gambling from 0.1% to 1% of gross gambling yield by 2023, as announced in June. The operators said that this tenfold increase will reach a contribution of approximately £60m (€67.1m/$75.7m) per year by 2023, with plans to maintain this level going forward.

The initiative, developed in partnership with the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), also see the operators contribute 0.1% of their GGY directly to GambleAware each year, to support its existing treatment commitments and to continue its independent research programme.

“This is an unprecedented level of commitment and collaboration by the leading companies in the British betting and gaming sector to address gambling-related harm and promote safer gambling,” Flutter chief executive Peter Jackson said.

“The whistle-to-whistle advertising ban was a good start, now we are funding a significant expansion in treatment and we continue to work on a number of areas of collaboration and best practice. Our aim is nothing less than a step change in how we tackle gambling-related harm.”

Funds will primarily be used to support treatment, with the five operators having already committed to spending £100m over the next four years. They will work with the DCMS, the Department for Health and Social Care and providers of existing services, with the aim of quadrupling the numbers of those accessing treatment from 2.5% to 10%.

The operators have also agreed to increase safer gambling messaging across their advertising, support dedicated campaigns and review the content of all marketing, advertising and sponsorship. This will include using technology to divert messages away from problem gamblers.

In addition, the operators will share more data to help protect problem gamblers from experiencing further harm. This builds on the launch of GAMSTOP, the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, and its land-based equivalent.

Each brand has committed to reporting publicly on the progress of commitments set out under the initiative. This will be published in their annual assurance statements to the Gambling Commission, including confirmation of the payment of the 1% voluntary contribution.

“This initiative should ensure that the necessary reforms to protect the young and vulnerable particularly with the growth of online gambling will be rooted in independent research – on everything from online gambling harms to associated suicide," said Lord Chadlington, the Conservative peer who has been a leading advocate for safer gambling measures. “That evidence base should also be used for education and for treatment.

“We must be certain that through the consultation process, a means is secured for the funds to be administered and the programmes evaluated, independent of the contributing companies and the gambling industry as a whole," he explained.

William Hill chief executive Philip Bowcock added: “There is an unprecedented level of agreement among leading companies that now is the time for the industry to step up to the plate and ensure we play our full part in addressing the issues surrounding gambling related harm. 

“Our hope is that this begins a new era of cooperation within the industry and between the industry and experts, charities, government and the regulator to promote safer gambling and minimise the risks.”

Marc Etches, chief executive of GambleAware, has also welcomed the move, saying it is essential that there is sufficient funding to provide for treatment and support for both problem gamblers and for those who are ‘at risk’, particularly the young and vulnerable.

Etches said: “Customers should be able to gamble in a safe environment, where help and advice is readily available at the point of need. 

“It is vital that we work closely with the commission, government and other organisations to ensure that operators continue to focus on making gambling products safer, and that treatment and support is properly funded alongside other initiatives including the Safer Gambling campaign, Bet Regret.”

Image: Max Pixel