RGSB reveals proposals for UK problem gambling strategy

19 February 2019

The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) has included a compulsory levy for the industry and a call to treat gambling advertising the same as alcohol and tobacco among its recommendations for the UK Gambling Commission’s new National Strategy.

Due for publication in April, the strategy will set out how the national regulator intends to enhance its consumer protection efforts and create a safer gambling environment for players from 2019 until 2022.

The RGSB has put forward a series of recommendations on what it perceives as the priorities to reduce gambling-related harm in the UK, as well as the arrangements to implement the strategy effectively.

These include a compulsory levy to replace the present voluntary arrangements and fund prevention, treatment and underpinning research on a greater scale, with a strong and transparent structure for the distribution of the funds raised.

The RGSB is also keen for the Commission to treat gambling advertising the same as alcohol and tobacco, by considering appropriate controls and applying similar precautionary principles.

Other RGSB proposals include shifting the focus from operators taking voluntary action to the Commission ordering companies to undertake measures, while the RGSB also says more clarity is needed as to which bodies are responsible for the implementation of prevention and treatment actions.

Similarly, the RGSB says responsibility for the provision and quality assurance of treatment should rest with health departments, rather than a charity funded by voluntary donations, while also calling for problem gambling to be addressed the same way as other public health issues.

The RGSB is also keen for the industry to stop making clear distinctions between ‘problem’ gamblers, those ‘at risk’ and other gamblers, saying people can move in and out of harm at different times.

In relation to this, the RGSB calls for the strategy to have a coherent framework of prevention initiatives that would be overseen by the government. Particular focus should be on population groups at higher risk of harm, with awareness that the different characteristics of each group may require different approaches.

However, the RGSB is keen for the Commission to take overall responsibility for the commissioning of necessary research to underpin the new strategy in order to ensure its success.

Finally, the RGSB urges a major push to embed a culture of evaluation in both prevention and treatment, focusing on impact and not just process. The body calls for the Commission to review the steps already taken and identify what further could be done to protect consumers.

RGSB chair Sir Christopher Kelly said: “We welcome the Commission taking responsibility for delivery of the next strategy and ensuring adequate and appropriate steps are taken to reduce gambling-related harms from the wide range of stakeholders from whom action will be required,” he said.

“We believe that there is a significant opportunity to make real progress over the next few years.”

The Gambling Commission will now consider this advice alongside comments submitted by industry stakeholders and the general public via a consultation that concluded on February 15.

Helen Rhodes, programme director at the Gambling Commission, said: “Alongside the consultation responses we’ve received from a variety of stakeholders, RGSB’s advice is a significant step to develop and launch a strategy to deliver the greatest possible impact to further reduce gambling harms.”

The move comes after the Gambling Commission last week launched a separate consultation to gather opinion on a series of planned regulatory changes it also said will help make online gambling fairer and safer in the UK.

The regulator is seeking opinion from consumers, gambling businesses and other interested groups on three proposed measures related to consumer interaction, alternative dispute resolution and gambling blocking software.