Senet urges clarification on UK problem gambling strategy aims

25 February 2019

The Senet Group, the UK-facing responsible gambling organisation, has published its official response to the Gambling Commission’s consultation on a new national strategy, calling for greater clarification on key strategic themes.

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

Senet has praised the decision to reduce the number of priority areas from 12 to just five, saying this will provide greater clarity and focus on shared objectives across the industry.

However, the group has called for an additional stage to be built into the new strategy, in order to help identify and clarify the desired outcomes associated with the key strategic themes. Senet said that, without clearly articulated goals, “it becomes difficult to assess progress or to focus cross-industry collaboration and action”.

Senet also highlighted the central aims of the strategy, saying that the focus on reducing gambling harms and the definition of those harms will be assumed to be diverse and potentially long term, which in turn could then affect resources, relationships, health and wider communities.

The group has cautioned against this approach, saying it should not undermine the importance of individual accountability as recognised in psychological research. Senet said that the Commission should look at other sectors, including alcohol, to see how too wide a definition of harm has made it difficult to assess the impact of reduction strategies.

Meanwhile, Senet has said the collective engagement of businesses featured across the strategy will be vital to its success. The group backs the regulator’s calls for greater cross-industry collaboration and has said the customer insight gathered from such an approach will be critical to ensuring harm reduction strategies have the operational and customer behavioural context to succeed.

For this reason, the group has recommended that the strategic pillar ‘Gambling Businesses’ be re-named as ‘Collaboration’ to help champion this message of cross-industry work.

In addition, while Senet has thrown its support behind the development of an industry data repository, it has said its own experience in a data collaboration project leads it to believe that this would be a complex challenge, with a need for clear research objectives when comparing data.

“Elements of the gambling industry have contributed to an environment of mistrust and frustration in recent years, and delivery against the Commission’s objectives in the last three-year strategy has not been sufficiently coordinated across operators,” Senet chair Gillian Wilmot said.

“However, companies are now making unprecedented efforts to reduce harms, and it’s critical that the customer insight and interaction they bring is put to good use in ensuring that harm reduction solutions have the operational context necessary to succeed and be implemented speedily.”

In relation to ongoing Commission efforts to enhance protection measures, Senet has also addressed the regulator’s consultation on Section 24 of the Gambling Act 2005. The Commission has proposed that only accredited or approved organisations would be considered for funding towards Research, Education and Treatment (RET).

Senet said this could prove to be a barrier to delivering the new strategy if too few organisations meet the independence test. Therefore, the group has urged the Commission to widen the basis of approved status to include ‘RET projects, campaigns or programmes’ that are clearly defined, adopt evaluation protocols and are supportive of the new strategy.

According to Senet, this would help to “unlock huge potential” to get large-scale programmes designed and implemented with various delivery partners, instead of create more bottlenecks in the sector and place pressure on fewer groups and organisations.

Senet is one of a number of trade groups to have given input on the new strategy, with the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board last week also setting out its own proposals. These include a compulsory levy for the industry and a call to treat gambling advertising the same as alcohol and tobacco.

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