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  • Embedded: The Gambling Industry in British Politics

    Steve Donoughue's role is emblematic of a wider relationship between British politics and the gambling industry, making it one of the best-connected sectors in Westminster. Before the white paper was published, Carolyn Harris MP warned, "If you go to the bar [in parliament], you will probably see someone from that industry, and they're buying people drinks".[4] The gambling lobby was ever-present in Westminster and bolstered by a revolving door between politics and the gambling industry. The BGC, for example, has the former Labour MP and shadow Secretary of State at DCMS Michael Dugher as CEO, veteran lobbyist Brigid Simmons, who was involved in the original Gambling Act in 2005, as Chairman, and hired the former editor of PoliticsHome Kevin Schofield to run its communication strategy.[6] Schofield joined the BGC in February 2020, and his arrival coincided with PoliticsHome hosting several articles written by BGC staffers or MPs on their behalf. Labelled as "partner content", these have included contributions by MPs John Spellar, Laurence Robertson and Grahame Morris, all of which emphasised the positive economic impact of the gambling industry.[17] BGC-sponsored posts have not been limited to PoliticsHome; others have included an article by Scott Benton in Conservative Home warning against "driving punters into the arms of the black market".[18] The political connections of leading figures in the gambling industry have helped industry figures gain access to the corridors of power. Records of ministers' meetings show that BGC staff and DCMS officials met at least seven times between October and December 2020 alone, either side of the gambling review being announced.[6] Since January 2020, gambling organisations, including the BGC, have held more meetings with government ministers than the Gambling Commission, despite the latter being the official independent regulatory body.[19] This access reflects the number of former political figures in the gambling industry. A recent investigation found that the Gamblers Consumer Forum, a group which claims to represent the voice of gamblers and attacked the gambling review's proposed reforms, was co-owned by Andrew Woodman, a former staffer to the controversial Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, Abbie MacGregor, a former Conservative council candidate and parliamentary researcher to two MPs, and the Secretariat to the now-disbanded APPG on Betting and Gaming, Steve Donoughue.[20] Likewise, Entain, who paid Philip Davies a salary, had two of his former staff members in significant positions within the organisation. Entain's head of safer gambling and external affairs, Sophie Dean, worked for the Shipley MP from at least 2013-18, whilst their chief of corporate affairs, Grainne Hurst, worked as a parliamentary researcher for Davies between 2010 and 2012.[20] Whilst Davies' contract included a "no lobbying clause", MPs can have a significant impact on the passage of legislation. As sports minister, Tracey Crouch MP believed that pro-gambling MPs had been instrumental in securing a delay to the policy of restricting FOBT stakes.[6] According to Crouch, it was after a meeting with Philip Davies that Secretary of State at DCMS Jeremy Wright advocated delaying change from April to October 2019.[6] The gambling industry thus further embedded itself within politics while the Government's landmark review was being produced, entrenching its position as one of the best-connected industries in Westminster. The avalanche of gifts, hospitality and salary in this period, and the evident reduction since, show clearly that it was a central part of a strategy designed to influence the outcome of the gambling review. There is a critical need to get answers from those with political and public influence who have accepted hospitality from the industry. We must learn lessons from the past, where lobbying has undermined public health issues and therefore demand more from MPs and the system to avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest of this kind. [1] PARLIAMENT.UK. Register of Members' Financial Interests [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/standards-and-financial-interests/parliamentary-commissioner-for-standards/registers-of-interests/register-of-members-financial-interests/ [2] The Guardian. Almost £225,000 in wages and freebies taken from gambling industry by 28 MPs [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/nov/15/almost-225000-in-wages-and-freebies-taken-from-gambling-industry-by-28-mps [3] Tortoise Media. High Stakes [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.tortoisemedia.com/2023/01/11/westminster-accounts-gambling-industry/ [4] The Guardian. Gambling industry increased spending on MPs tenfold in five years, data shows [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/apr/06/gambling-industry-increased-spending-on-mps-tenfold-in-five-years-data-shows [5] PARLIAMENT.UK. Mr Laurence Robertson MP Not Upheld [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/documents/pcfs/not-upheld/mr-laurence-robertson-mp-not-upheld.pdf [6] Davies R. Jackpot: How Gambling Conquered Britain. London: Guardian Faber; 2022. [7] The Telegraph and Argus. Philip Davies MP hits back at extra wage claims and criticism [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/19711643.philip-davies-mp-hits-back-extra-wage-claims-criticism/ [8] The Guardian. Tory MP Scott Benton has whip suspended after newspaper sting [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/apr/05/rishi-sunak-facing-calls-suspend-whip-scott-benton [9] BBC News. MP Scott Benton claims ways around hospitality rules [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-65207681 [10] National World. MPs given gifts by gambling and betting firms repeatedly supported the industry in Parliament [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/mps-given-gifts-by-gambling-firms-repeatedly-supported-the-industry-in-parliament-3451665 [11] Hansard. UK Casino Industry. Volume 698: Debated on Wednesday Jul 7 2021 [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-07/debates/886612E0-B29F-400A-9665-1F95916C58EE/UKCasinoIndustry [12] The Guardian. MPs to raise concerns over No 10 advisers with links to gambling industry [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jul/06/mps-to-raise-concerns-over-no-10-advisers-with-links-to-gambling-industry [13] The Guardian. MPs criticise UK gambling regulator for trying to reduce addiction [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/23/mps-criticise-uk-gambling-regulator-addiction [14] Coinslot International, Parliamentary Group Report: The Gambling Commission has "gone rogue" and overstepped the bounds of its regulatory remit [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.coinslot.co.uk/2022/01/28/parliamentary-group-report-the-gambling-commission-has-gone-rogue-and-overstepped-the-bounds-of-its-regulatory-remit/ [15] PARLIAMENT.UK. House of Commons Committee on Standards. All-Party Parliamentary Groups: Improving Governance and Regulation [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/22081/documents/163809/default/ [16] Linkedin. Steve Donoghue: Parliamentary All Party Betting and gaming group [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/parliamentary-all-party-betting-gaming-goup-steve-donoughue/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_ios&utm_campaign=share_via [17] PoliticsHome. Betting & Gaming Council [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.politicshome.com/members/profile/betting-and-gaming-council?news_pg=1 [18] ConservativeHome. Scott Benton: We are right to reform the UK's gambling laws – but we must not drive punters into the arms of the black market [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://conservativehome.com/2020/12/29/scott-benton-we-conservatives-are-right-to-reform-the-uks-gambling-laws-but-we-must-not-drive-punters-into-the-arms-of-the-illegal-black-market/ [19] National World. Revealed: the full extent of the betting lobby's campaign to influence the Government's gambling white paper [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/revealed-the-full-extent-of-the-betting-lobbys-campaign-to-influence-the-governments-gambling-white-paper-4096756 [20] The Guardian. Firm behind 'voice of gamblers' group co-owned by betting industry consultant [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/aug/08/firm-behind-voice-of-gamblers-group-co-owned-by-betting-industry-consultant [21] The Guardian. Record revenues at UK gambling firms amid rise of online slot machines [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/nov/30/record-revenues-at-uk-gambling-firms-amid-rise-of-online-slot-machines#:~:text=The%20betting%20and%20gaming%20industry's,Commission%20released%20on%20Thursday%20show.

  • All-Party Parliamentary Group for Betting and Gaming

    Several of the largest recipients of gifts and hospitality sat on the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for betting and gaming. Chaired by Scott Benton, the APPG has included Philip Davies and Laurence Robertson and regular recipients of hospitality Connor McGinn, John Spellar and former Bet365 employee Aaron Bell. Whilst all have individually spoken in parliament warning against greater gambling regulation, the APPG has also publicly warned against the dangers of greater regulation. In 2022, they directly attacked the Gambling Commission, branding it an "under-performing regulator", and called on the Government to take it into "special measures". [13] The group stated that the commission's attempts to "significantly reduce the number of problem gamblers" risked the "destruction of one of the world's best gambling industry's (sic)". Despite previous reports from the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office concluding that the commission was not tough enough, the APPG argued that it was "acting on the siren voices of prohibitionist activists and creating a black market that will destroy lives and the industry". [14] Branded "ludicrous" by campaigners for regulatory reform and leading to the resignation of Vice-chair Connor McGinn, who refused to be associated with the report, the APPG's report mirrors both the argument and language of industry lobby groups. Concerns regarding external influence were central to the House of Commons review of APPGs published in April 2022. The report emphasised that APPGs "must not be seen as enabling outside interests to 'buy the logo' of parliament".[15] Citing concerns that "APPGs could represent the next great parliamentary scandal, with commercial entities effectively buying access to and influence of parliamentarians and decision-makers", the report suggested a number of possible reforms.[15] These included limitations on the role of external groups or individuals operating within or providing funds to APPGs.[15] The Fixed Odds Betting Terminals APPG, made up of MPs committed to gambling reform, received significant funding from gambling companies interested in FOBTs. One of its biggest backers was Bacta, a lobby group for adult gaming centres, whilst the group also received funding from the Hippodrome Casino and pub chain JD Wetherspoon, whose venues are brimming with fruit machines.[6] Similarly, the APPG for Betting and Gaming had an external Secretariat, Steve Donoughue, a self-styled "gambling consultant" listed as a staffer for Scott Benton.[3] The APPG ceased to exist after the publication of the gambling white paper. Of its former members, only Philip Davies has declared the receipt of hospitality from gambling interests since. Its closure was announced by Steve Donoughue on Linkedin, underlining the extent to which the gambling industry is interwoven amongst the parliamentarians who have provided the most vocal public criticism of greater gambling regulation.[16] [1] PARLIAMENT.UK. Register of Members' Financial Interests [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/standards-and-financial-interests/parliamentary-commissioner-for-standards/registers-of-interests/register-of-members-financial-interests/ [2] The Guardian. Almost £225,000 in wages and freebies taken from gambling industry by 28 MPs [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/nov/15/almost-225000-in-wages-and-freebies-taken-from-gambling-industry-by-28-mps [3] Tortoise Media. High Stakes [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.tortoisemedia.com/2023/01/11/westminster-accounts-gambling-industry/ [4] The Guardian. Gambling industry increased spending on MPs tenfold in five years, data shows [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/apr/06/gambling-industry-increased-spending-on-mps-tenfold-in-five-years-data-shows [5] PARLIAMENT.UK. Mr Laurence Robertson MP Not Upheld [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/documents/pcfs/not-upheld/mr-laurence-robertson-mp-not-upheld.pdf [6] Davies R. Jackpot: How Gambling Conquered Britain. London: Guardian Faber; 2022. [7] The Telegraph and Argus. Philip Davies MP hits back at extra wage claims and criticism [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/19711643.philip-davies-mp-hits-back-extra-wage-claims-criticism/ [8] The Guardian. Tory MP Scott Benton has whip suspended after newspaper sting [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/apr/05/rishi-sunak-facing-calls-suspend-whip-scott-benton [9] BBC News. MP Scott Benton claims ways around hospitality rules [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-65207681 [10] National World. MPs given gifts by gambling and betting firms repeatedly supported the industry in Parliament [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/mps-given-gifts-by-gambling-firms-repeatedly-supported-the-industry-in-parliament-3451665 [11] Hansard. UK Casino Industry. Volume 698: Debated on Wednesday Jul 7 2021 [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-07/debates/886612E0-B29F-400A-9665-1F95916C58EE/UKCasinoIndustry [12] The Guardian. MPs to raise concerns over No 10 advisers with links to gambling industry [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jul/06/mps-to-raise-concerns-over-no-10-advisers-with-links-to-gambling-industry [13] The Guardian. MPs criticise UK gambling regulator for trying to reduce addiction [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/23/mps-criticise-uk-gambling-regulator-addiction [14] Coinslot International, Parliamentary Group Report: The Gambling Commission has "gone rogue" and overstepped the bounds of its regulatory remit [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.coinslot.co.uk/2022/01/28/parliamentary-group-report-the-gambling-commission-has-gone-rogue-and-overstepped-the-bounds-of-its-regulatory-remit/ [15] PARLIAMENT.UK. House of Commons Committee on Standards. All-Party Parliamentary Groups: Improving Governance and Regulation [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/22081/documents/163809/default/ [16] Linkedin. Steve Donoghue: Parliamentary All Party Betting and gaming group [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/parliamentary-all-party-betting-gaming-goup-steve-donoughue/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_ios&utm_campaign=share_via [17] PoliticsHome. Betting & Gaming Council [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.politicshome.com/members/profile/betting-and-gaming-council?news_pg=1 [18] ConservativeHome. Scott Benton: We are right to reform the UK's gambling laws – but we must not drive punters into the arms of the black market [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://conservativehome.com/2020/12/29/scott-benton-we-conservatives-are-right-to-reform-the-uks-gambling-laws-but-we-must-not-drive-punters-into-the-arms-of-the-illegal-black-market/ [19] National World. Revealed: the full extent of the betting lobby's campaign to influence the Government's gambling white paper [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/revealed-the-full-extent-of-the-betting-lobbys-campaign-to-influence-the-governments-gambling-white-paper-4096756 [20] The Guardian. Firm behind 'voice of gamblers' group co-owned by betting industry consultant [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/aug/08/firm-behind-voice-of-gamblers-group-co-owned-by-betting-industry-consultant [21] The Guardian. Record revenues at UK gambling firms amid rise of online slot machines [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/nov/30/record-revenues-at-uk-gambling-firms-amid-rise-of-online-slot-machines#:~:text=The%20betting%20and%20gaming%20industry's,Commission%20released%20on%20Thursday%20show.

  • Scott Benton Scandal: A Return on Investment

    The relationship between the gambling industry and MPs was brought into sharp focus by the undercover sting on Scott Benton in April 2023, revealing the benefits gambling companies may hope to gain from their financial outlay. Benton, subsequently suspended from parliament for 35 days and no longer a Conservative MP, offered a number of different lobbying options to the undercover reporters seeking a salaried "expert adviser" amid the Government's gambling review. Benton, who has disclosed £9,000 worth of hospitality from gambling firms since 2021, suggested that he could provide "real-time information" and "easy access" to ministers. [8] He also guaranteed a copy of the gambling white paper at least 48 hours before it was published and revealed tactics used by the gambling industry to keep their hospitality off the MP's register of interests. [8] "Without saying too much", Benton stated, "you'd be amazed at the number of times I've been to races, and the ticket comes to £295". [8] This is under the £300 threshold at which MPs must register gifts, benefits or hospitality and suggests that the total cost of hospitality received by MPs since December 2020 may be significantly larger than the figure shown on the MPs' register of interests. [9] Benton's comments are particularly pertinent in the context of his own register of interests, where there is only one entry relating to horse racing since 2020 - £1400 worth of hospitality at Royal Ascot courtesy of the BGC. [1] The Times' revelations suggest that Benton has attended more than that and that the disclosed total value of hospitality received by MPs from the gambling industry has been artificially decreased. Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that Benton requested that the tickets come to less than £300, it is worth considering why gambling companies would seek to keep the hospitality they have bestowed on MPs off the public record. Benton himself has stated that hospitality events are opportunities to discuss "important issues with people in the industry", and gambling firms would surely hope this would translate to influence in parliament. [10] Four hours before Benton and 11 other MPs were hosted by Entain Holdings at Wembley for the semi-final of the Euros, he spoke in parliament warning against restrictions on the gambling industry. Extolling the benefits of casinos to the economy and local communities, Benton urged that the gambling review must be "established on the evidence, not on preconceived ideas and ideology". [11] Laurence Robertson, a fellow recipient of c. £3,500 worth of hospitality that evening, expressed another of the industry's primary arguments, warning against stringent restrictions due to the "great danger that people will play on the black market". [11] Paddy Power co-founder Stewart Kenny noted that the gambling industry often cites the "threat of the black market" despite the fact they "always knew it was a bit of a bogus argument". [6] John Spellar, who had received hospitality worth £2,800 from BGC and Power Leisure Bookmakers that summer, emphasised the "urgent need to recognise the industry's importance for the treasury". [11] Rarely has this issue been as transparent as in a Westminster Hall debate in 2022, where Jonathan Gullis MP read from a briefing written by Bet365. [12] Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, later apologised for forgetting to declare his receipt of £540 worth of hospitality from Bet365 to watch Stoke City. [12] Whilst MPs are prohibited from 'paid advocacy', at the very least, it would appear that gifts and hospitality are an opportunity for gambling firms to convince MPs of their arguments against further regulation. [1] PARLIAMENT.UK. Register of Members' Financial Interests [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/standards-and-financial-interests/parliamentary-commissioner-for-standards/registers-of-interests/register-of-members-financial-interests/ [2] The Guardian. Almost £225,000 in wages and freebies taken from gambling industry by 28 MPs [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/nov/15/almost-225000-in-wages-and-freebies-taken-from-gambling-industry-by-28-mps [3] Tortoise Media. High Stakes [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.tortoisemedia.com/2023/01/11/westminster-accounts-gambling-industry/ [4] The Guardian. Gambling industry increased spending on MPs tenfold in five years, data shows [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/apr/06/gambling-industry-increased-spending-on-mps-tenfold-in-five-years-data-shows [5] PARLIAMENT.UK. Mr Laurence Robertson MP Not Upheld [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/documents/pcfs/not-upheld/mr-laurence-robertson-mp-not-upheld.pdf [6] Davies R. Jackpot: How Gambling Conquered Britain. London: Guardian Faber; 2022. [7] The Telegraph and Argus. Philip Davies MP hits back at extra wage claims and criticism [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/19711643.philip-davies-mp-hits-back-extra-wage-claims-criticism/ [8] The Guardian. Tory MP Scott Benton has whip suspended after newspaper sting [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/apr/05/rishi-sunak-facing-calls-suspend-whip-scott-benton [9] BBC News. MP Scott Benton claims ways around hospitality rules [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-65207681 [10] National World. MPs given gifts by gambling and betting firms repeatedly supported the industry in Parliament [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/mps-given-gifts-by-gambling-firms-repeatedly-supported-the-industry-in-parliament-3451665 [11] Hansard. UK Casino Industry. Volume 698: Debated on Wednesday Jul 7 2021 [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-07/debates/886612E0-B29F-400A-9665-1F95916C58EE/UKCasinoIndustry [12] The Guardian. MPs to raise concerns over No 10 advisers with links to gambling industry [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jul/06/mps-to-raise-concerns-over-no-10-advisers-with-links-to-gambling-industry [13] The Guardian. MPs criticise UK gambling regulator for trying to reduce addiction [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/23/mps-criticise-uk-gambling-regulator-addiction [14] Coinslot International, Parliamentary Group Report: The Gambling Commission has "gone rogue" and overstepped the bounds of its regulatory remit [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.coinslot.co.uk/2022/01/28/parliamentary-group-report-the-gambling-commission-has-gone-rogue-and-overstepped-the-bounds-of-its-regulatory-remit/ [15] PARLIAMENT.UK. House of Commons Committee on Standards. All-Party Parliamentary Groups: Improving Governance and Regulation [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/22081/documents/163809/default/ [16] Linkedin. Steve Donoghue: Parliamentary All Party Betting and gaming group [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/parliamentary-all-party-betting-gaming-goup-steve-donoughue/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_ios&utm_campaign=share_via [17] PoliticsHome. Betting & Gaming Council [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.politicshome.com/members/profile/betting-and-gaming-council?news_pg=1 [18] ConservativeHome. Scott Benton: We are right to reform the UK's gambling laws – but we must not drive punters into the arms of the black market [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://conservativehome.com/2020/12/29/scott-benton-we-conservatives-are-right-to-reform-the-uks-gambling-laws-but-we-must-not-drive-punters-into-the-arms-of-the-illegal-black-market/ [19] National World. Revealed: the full extent of the betting lobby's campaign to influence the Government's gambling white paper [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/revealed-the-full-extent-of-the-betting-lobbys-campaign-to-influence-the-governments-gambling-white-paper-4096756 [20] The Guardian. Firm behind 'voice of gamblers' group co-owned by betting industry consultant [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/aug/08/firm-behind-voice-of-gamblers-group-co-owned-by-betting-industry-consultant [21] The Guardian. Record revenues at UK gambling firms amid rise of online slot machines [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/nov/30/record-revenues-at-uk-gambling-firms-amid-rise-of-online-slot-machines#:~:text=The%20betting%20and%20gaming%20industry's,Commission%20released%20on%20Thursday%20show.

  • An Easy Wager: Understanding the Gambling Industry's Political Grip

    In the aftermath of Fixed Odds Betting Terminal reform in 2018, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced a gambling review in December 2020. The stated aims were to address concerns about problem gambling and to create a fairer industry. It promised an update to regulations created in 2005 before the proliferation of online betting alongside smartphones had put casinos and betting shops in people's pockets, 24 hours a day. Behind the scenes, however, a different story was taking shape. The gambling industry, led by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), redoubled their lobbying efforts. The logical conclusion of this campaign, and its significant reduction post-publication, is that they hoped to influence the review's outcome in their favour. A deluge of hospitality, lucrative salaries, and a web of connections firmly embedded the gambling industry within the corridors of power. Those with the most staunch public opposition to greater regulation were receiving gifts, hospitality or salary from gambling organisations, creating, at the very least, the perception of undue influence by an industry interwoven in British politics. According to the register of members' interests, MPs disclosed over £235,000 worth of gifts, hospitality and salary from gambling companies between December 2020 and the publication of the review in April 2023. [1] Whilst only a tiny proportion of the UK gambling industry's £15.1 billion of revenue in the year ending March 2023, this constitutes a more than 200% increase on the three years prior to the announcement of the white paper in December 2020. [21] Between 2017 and December 2020, £72,500 worth of gifts, hospitality and salary were recorded by MPs. Of this figure, £50,000 was salary paid to Philip Davies by Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, in three instalments between August and October 2020. [1] £4,000 of the remaining £22,500 is made up of the first two months of Laurence Robertson MP's annual salary from the BGC. [1] Robertson's salaried position commenced in October 2020, two months before the official announcement of the Government's gambling review, and ended on Jun 30, two months after its publication. There was thus a tenfold increase in the amount of gifts and hospitality declared by MPs from gambling organisations in the period that the gambling review was taking place. In addition to a significant increase in financial outlay, hospitality was spread over significantly more MPs between 2021 and 2023. In this period, 54 MPs disclosed gifts, hospitality or salary from gambling firms, compared to 13 MPs between 2017 and December 2020. [1] Including hospitality from horse racing companies, these numbers rise to 68 MPs since December 2020 compared to 21 MPs between 2017 and 2020. [1] From May 2023 onwards, hospitality from betting companies had reduced to pre-2020 levels. Since May, 14 MPs have declared hospitality from the BGC worth £27,576. In the equivalent period before the gambling review was published, the BGC provided 47 MPs with over £78,000 worth of hospitality. [1] The MPs' register of interests thus revealed an explosion in hospitality while the gambling review was being conducted. As mass gatherings gradually returned from the COVID restrictions, gambling firms treated MPs to an array of blockbuster live events. The BGC, the self-styled industry "standards body" established in 2019 to consolidate gambling interests, hosted 5 MPs to an Ed Sheeran concert at a total cost of £4,423. [1] The 2020 Euros tournament, held in 2021 due to COVID, proved an irresistible opportunity for gambling firms to buy access to MPs. Paddy Power hosted 8 MPs at Wembley for England's 2-0 win over Germany, whilst 12 MPs received hospitality worth £3457 per ticket at England's semi-final vs Denmark. [1] That summer, MPs disclosed £93,000 worth of hospitality from gambling firms, including trips to Ascot, Wimbledon and Lord's. [1] Some MPs benefited more than others. Laurence Robertson, MP for Tewkesbury, disclosed over £69,400 of salary, gifts and hospitality from gambling firms between 2021 and 2023. [1] Including hospitality from the horse racing industry, this number grows to over £78,000. Mr Robertson and his wife received hospitality for all four days of the Cheltenham festival in both 2022 and 2023. [1]  In both years, Robertson was hosted by The Jockey Club (twice in 2022), the BGC, and Sky Bet; in 2023, the gambling giant Flutter Entertainment also hosted the MP, meaning that all four days in 2023 were hosted by separate gambling or horse racing organisations. [1] Such was the strength of the relationship between Robertson and the gambling industry that, in addition to his £24,000 consultant salary, tickets to the 2022 Brit awards and hospitality at numerous sporting events, the BGC hosted a reception to mark his 65th birthday at London's Rialto Casino in March 2023. [1] There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of Robertson, but there is undeniably a close relationship between the MP and the gambling industry. His public pronouncements are uniformly supportive of and ideologically consistent with gambling interests, and the financial benefit he receives leaves him open to accusations questioning his independence. Parliamentary colleagues have voiced concerns regarding the influence of gambling firms on MPs, highlighting the flurry of hospitality disclosed since 2020. Lord Foster of Bath, chair of the Peers for Gambling Reform group in the House of Lords, argued that it was "pretty obvious why the industry is giving largess to parliamentarians". [2] He suggests that hospitality and consultancy salaries were an attempt to "influence the outcome (of the gambling review) to the advantage of the gambling companies". [2] SNP MP Ronnie Cowan warned that the proximity between parliament and the gambling industry risked MPs becoming "biased and one-sided in their view", whilst Carolyn Harris MP questioned why "some people take the hospitality time and time again". [3] [4] Paid consultancy salaries for gambling companies make MPs particularly vulnerable to accusations of improper relationships with gambling lobby groups. Laurence Robertson amended his consultancy agreement with the BGC in October 2021 to "Advisor on Sport and Safer Gambling" – no longer a "Parliamentary Advisor" in the wake of a new code introduced after the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal, barring MPs from providing paid parliamentary advice. [5] The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner found no evidence of wrongdoing in an investigation into this relationship in May 2023. Still, it is unclear what expertise Mr Robertson provided the BGC beyond his position in parliament. [5] The same can be said for Philip Davies MP, the recipient of £50,000 from Ladbrokes and Coral owner Entain between August and October 2020, for 124 hours of advice regarding customer service and safer gambling. [6] Davies has been forceful in his rebuttal of any suggestion that his independence of thought is compromised by this salary or the c.£14,000 he has received in hospitality from gambling firms since 2021. According to Davies, these do not make "any difference to my opinion on things". [7] Indeed, there is no evidence to suggest that Mr Davies' public support for the gambling industry is anything other than his personal opinion. However, the return on investment expected by gambling firms from the c. £64,000 spent on Philip Davies since August 2020, or the insights Mr Davies can provide into the customer service or safer gambling experience, beyond his role in the UK's legislative chamber. [1] PARLIAMENT.UK. Register of Members' Financial Interests [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/standards-and-financial-interests/parliamentary-commissioner-for-standards/registers-of-interests/register-of-members-financial-interests/ [2] The Guardian. Almost £225,000 in wages and freebies taken from gambling industry by 28 MPs [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/nov/15/almost-225000-in-wages-and-freebies-taken-from-gambling-industry-by-28-mps [3] Tortoise Media. High Stakes [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.tortoisemedia.com/2023/01/11/westminster-accounts-gambling-industry/ [4] The Guardian. Gambling industry increased spending on MPs tenfold in five years, data shows [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/apr/06/gambling-industry-increased-spending-on-mps-tenfold-in-five-years-data-shows [5] PARLIAMENT.UK. Mr Laurence Robertson MP Not Upheld [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/documents/pcfs/not-upheld/mr-laurence-robertson-mp-not-upheld.pdf [6] Davies R. Jackpot: How Gambling Conquered Britain. London: Guardian Faber; 2022. [7] The Telegraph and Argus. Philip Davies MP hits back at extra wage claims and criticism [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/19711643.philip-davies-mp-hits-back-extra-wage-claims-criticism/ [8] The Guardian. Tory MP Scott Benton has whip suspended after newspaper sting [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/apr/05/rishi-sunak-facing-calls-suspend-whip-scott-benton [9] BBC News. MP Scott Benton claims ways around hospitality rules [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-65207681 [10] National World. MPs given gifts by gambling and betting firms repeatedly supported the industry in Parliament [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/mps-given-gifts-by-gambling-firms-repeatedly-supported-the-industry-in-parliament-3451665 [11] Hansard. UK Casino Industry. Volume 698: Debated on Wednesday Jul 7 2021 [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-07/debates/886612E0-B29F-400A-9665-1F95916C58EE/UKCasinoIndustry [12] The Guardian. MPs to raise concerns over No 10 advisers with links to gambling industry [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jul/06/mps-to-raise-concerns-over-no-10-advisers-with-links-to-gambling-industry [13] The Guardian. MPs criticise UK gambling regulator for trying to reduce addiction [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/23/mps-criticise-uk-gambling-regulator-addiction [14] Coinslot International, Parliamentary Group Report: The Gambling Commission has "gone rogue" and overstepped the bounds of its regulatory remit [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.coinslot.co.uk/2022/01/28/parliamentary-group-report-the-gambling-commission-has-gone-rogue-and-overstepped-the-bounds-of-its-regulatory-remit/ [15] PARLIAMENT.UK. House of Commons Committee on Standards. All-Party Parliamentary Groups: Improving Governance and Regulation [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/22081/documents/163809/default/ [16] Linkedin. Steve Donoghue: Parliamentary All Party Betting and gaming group [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/parliamentary-all-party-betting-gaming-goup-steve-donoughue/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_ios&utm_campaign=share_via [17] PoliticsHome. Betting & Gaming Council [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.politicshome.com/members/profile/betting-and-gaming-council?news_pg=1 [18] ConservativeHome. Scott Benton: We are right to reform the UK's gambling laws – but we must not drive punters into the arms of the black market [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://conservativehome.com/2020/12/29/scott-benton-we-conservatives-are-right-to-reform-the-uks-gambling-laws-but-we-must-not-drive-punters-into-the-arms-of-the-illegal-black-market/ [19] National World. Revealed: the full extent of the betting lobby's campaign to influence the Government's gambling white paper [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/revealed-the-full-extent-of-the-betting-lobbys-campaign-to-influence-the-governments-gambling-white-paper-4096756 [20] The Guardian. Firm behind 'voice of gamblers' group co-owned by betting industry consultant [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/aug/08/firm-behind-voice-of-gamblers-group-co-owned-by-betting-industry-consultant [21] The Guardian. Record revenues at UK gambling firms amid rise of online slot machines [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/nov/30/record-revenues-at-uk-gambling-firms-amid-rise-of-online-slot-machines#:~:text=The%20betting%20and%20gaming%20industry's,Commission%20released%20on%20Thursday%20show.

  • Mental health matters - preventing gambling harm

    1. Introduction: As part of the work programme being delivered by Gambling Harm UK (GHUK) within the Mid & South Essex Integrated Care System, some funding was obtained from the Essex Community Foundation Trust to enable GHUK to run preventing gambling harm awareness workshops for young people. This funding was awarded from the Mid and South Essex Mental Health 'Inequalities' Programme. As with previous young people workshops delivered by GHUK, the aim of these is to increase students understanding of the risks associated with gambling, and to increase their awareness of how to respond in circumstances of experiencing or noticing gambling harm. In recognition of past feedback from students and with the intention of giving an increased focus around potential risks of impact on mental health, GHUK produced an updated awareness programme for this group of sessions. This programme has now been delivered to three schools and one college reaching over 350 young people during the last month and the feedback from those sixth form and college students who have completed our evaluation questionnaires has been extremely positive. 2. Feedback Results Those attending our sessions are asked to complete a pre and post evaluation survey as shown below. Students are advised these are not compulsory and are non-identifiable. To date 295 evaluation questionnaires have been returned from the four sessions delivered. The surveys asks students to grade their pre and post session understanding against the following six domains using a five point scale . Q1. “I understand what gambling related harm is” Q2. “I am aware of things that increase the chance of someone suffering gambling harm” Q3. “I can describe ways to help someone if their gambling behaviour worried me” Q4. “I would know where to go to talk about problems to do with gambling” Q5. “I am aware of skills and tools that can be used to prevent gambling harm” Q6. “I understand the techniques used by the gambling industry to persuade people to gamble” The average pre workshop scale score was: Q1 3.74; Q2 3.51; Q3: 2.89; Q4 2.86: Q5 2.74 & Q6. 3.60 The average post workshop scale score was: Q1. 4.39; Q2. 4.30; Q3 4.10; Q4 4.13; Q5. 4.10 & Q6. 4.43 This feedback shows an increase in awareness across all the 6 domains our training is focused around. The changes in awareness levels vary across the 6 domains, with largest change occurring in the “I am aware of skills and tools that can be used to prevent gambling harm” domain which increased from 2.86 to 4.13.. When the students were asked if they felt more informed about risks of gambling harm following the session 94% responded yes. Summary: The results from the first four of GHUK’s new young people workshops delivered in Chelmsford and Braintree indicate that students have valued these sessions. They have reported that their awareness levels have increased around risks of gambling harm and that they now feel better informed around how to respond in circumstances of experiencing or noticing gambling harm. Finally, when students were asked “After attending this workshop, do you feel it would be helpful for other people their age” 87% responded yes. GHUK looks forward to delivering further workshops over coming weeks. We would like to thank those schools, Writtle College and Anglia Ruskin University who have responded to our offer to run our new awareness programme and for enabling these sessions to be booked. John Gilham CEO Gambling Harm UK

  • Responding to gambling harm - developing capability

    1. Introduction: One of the three strands to Gambling Harm UK’s (GHUK) Strategic Model for responding to gambling harm is to Develop Capability. This along with Creating Connectivity and Maximising Capacity is part of creating the systematic approach required to respond to gambling harm as a public health issue. One of the ways GHUK is looking to Develop Capability is through providing awareness sessions to health and other professionals so that with the further knowledge and information we help them to acquire, they become more informed and so more able to help those who approach them that are experiencing gambling harm. Over the last month GHUK has attended two Time to Learn sessions for primary care practitioners across the Mid & South Essex Integrated Care System (M&SEICS) which has a resident population of 1.2 million. A further one is planned in December. Responses to these awareness sessions have been extremely positive to date with over 50 primary care practitioners confirming that following the awareness session, they would change their clinical practice with immediate effect in order to support those affected directly or indirectly by gambling harm. Following these two sessions, GHUK was approached by Dr Ajetunmobi who is a GP within (M&SEICS) to ask if we would run our awareness session for the GP trainees who he had a training responsibility for. After an initial one to one meeting with Dr Ajetunmobi the awareness session for the GP trainees was run last Wednesday 8th November 2023. 2. Feedback Results Thirty-three of those GP trainees who attended the 90-minute awareness training session provided feedback on the value of the session. The questions asked and the organisation of the feedback were both determined by Dr Ajetunmobi. Dr Ajetunmobi has kindly now forwarded these results onto me. These are shown below. The positive feedback and comments help to provide assurance to GHUK that the work we are delivering is seen of value by medical staff. “Brilliant presentation on an interesting not commonly spoken about topic. I was really engaged throughout.” GHUK would like to thank Dr Ajetunmobi for approaching us to provide our awareness training, which enables GHUK to take a further small step forward in helping to develop the future capability required to respond to gambling harm as a public health issue. 3. Feedback Output

  • London Boroughs not age testing betting shops

    Gambling Harm UK has sought information on measures to prevent underage gambling in betting shops. To this end we sent freedom of information requests to all 32 London Borough Councils requesting information on current or past ‘test purchasing’(1) exercises they have carried out in betting shops. Of the 32, 31 complied with the request, only Hounslow council did not provide the information in the required time for FOI requests. Of those 31, only two, Redbridge, and Waltham Forest currently undertake test purchasing. Redbridge having tested 12 locations in April of this year as part of its yearly testing (all passed), and Waltham Forest having conducted 77 of which 69 passed and 8 failed to prevent a bet being placed by the minor (a failure rate just over 10%). None of the other councils reported having carried out any test purchasing for at least 5 years and whilst varying reasons were given for this, the overwhelming response from councils was that they undertook testing based on intelligence reports and no complaints had been received. Many councils also mentioned a lack of resources and the need to prioritise other issues. Protecting young people from the risk of gambling harm is a high priority. One part in achieving this is to restrict access to betting shops, process exists to achieve this, however without a comprehensive system of testing we believe risk remains. Whilst most councils reported a lack of intelligence reports, we believe that testing should be proactive and not reactive. Of the two boroughs which did undertake testing whilst one reported a 100% success rate, the other had a failure rate of just over 10%, indicating that some young people are not prevented from gambling, which is illegal below the age of 18 thus opening them up to risk of gambling harm. (1) In this context test purchasing refers to councils sending in a minor under the age of 18 (such as a police cadet) into a betting shop to attempt to place a bet.

  • John Gilham to retire as Gambling Harm UK CEO

    John Gilham agreed to take on the role of Gambling Harm UK's (GHUK's) CEO in September 2022. John advised our Trustees from the outset of his planned retirement on the 31st December 2023, when he will spend more time with his wife and family. We asked John to further establish GHUK as a charity recognised for the impact of its work. In this time, John has successfully delivered on pre-existing initiatives as well as developing new ones, enabling the charity's objectives and work programmes to be achieved. Despite being employed part-time, John’s efforts have been above and beyond with significant amounts of extra time being donated towards the charity's aims. As Trustees, we thank John for all he has done for GHUK. We want to recognise the thoughtful piece of work John has led in developing an Outline Strategic Model for responding to gambling harm at a system level. Furthermore, the work he has undertaken within the Mid and South Essex ICS has helped give visibility to gambling harm as a key public health issue in the area. Whilst John is retiring as CEO, he will continue to volunteer and support GHUK as an honorary trustee, with his focus being to continue to provide advice and support as a systems lead in Mid and South Essex ICS. As John has told those he has been working with, the legacy of gambling harm as an affected other means that for him to achieve his own sustainable recovery, he needs to spend more time doing other things with his life and spend more time with his family and friends. As John moves on, I will be undertaking the CEO role for an initial interim period whilst we consider the next stages of our development as a charity. Dr Kishan Patel Chair of Trustees

  • An Outline Strategic Model - Creating Connectivity, Developing Capability and Maximising Capacity

    Around ten years ago my life changed forever. Was I expecting this change? No. What caused this change? Gambling harm. I had no idea despite having some understanding about other addictions that gambling could lead to such devastation for some. Over the last six years I have been on a journey learning more about gambling harm. A combination of reviewing research papers, listening, and speaking to both clinical and lived experience experts, meeting many individuals who have suffered gambling harm directly or indirectly, and through my own lived experience. In the first four years, my journey was focused on helping my son to start and sustain his recovery and on helping my family and myself to come to grips with what had happened to our lives, and how we could help ourselves to cope and live with what I now know are legacy gambling harms. During these four years and even prior to them, when looking back at the support my son and those who are affected others had needed, it was clear, that there were significant gaps in understanding, and in prevention, treatment, and sustainable recovery support services. Whilst I was not an expert in gambling harm, I was an experienced CEO and non-executive director, who had over thirty-five years of experience working in the health service, engaging with social care, education, and voluntary sector groups, and I had seen how other public health challenges could be addressed. So why was gambling harm a public health issue as I found out, not receiving the same structured systematic approach? Part of the reason why, was because it was an emerging public health issue. Also, unlike other addictions it was mainly hidden or often invisible and combined with stigma and shame this was preventing this topic from being openly discussed. Additionally, the actions by the gambling industry to normalise gambling with their marketing which implies gambling had no or low risk, meant that for many this was not a topic high on the agenda for those organisations who need to engage with delivering public health solutions. If I looked back on smoking, I could see a parallel with gambling all those years back. For decades the smoking industry adversely impacted population health. Only after significant harm to many, including those who had never smoked themselves but were affected others, were systematic public health measures introduced. I began to reflect on this situation and what I may be able to do, even if in only in a small way. Initially this was to share my lived experience and engage with some of those individuals I knew within health systems. The aim being to start to increase awareness. The response from these was supportive but a lack of knowing what needed to be done at that point, inhibited actions. Fortunately, for me around this time, Healthwatch Essex had identified gambling harm as an area of concern and this formed part of their addiction review programme. Chris, my son who was around 4 years into his recovery from gambling disorder at this point, offered his support to help them, and since that date Chris and I have established a close working relationship with them. Their addiction review report, together with my own thoughts and those of my son Chris, led me to develop an outline strategic model for responding to gambling harm as a public health issue. The aim of this was to develop a system approach for enabling the development and implementation of an integrated approach to prevention, treatment, and sustainable recovery. At this point I was fortunate to be appointed to Gambling Harm UK (GHUK) as its CEO. With the support of the charity's trustees, I was given the opportunity to use the charity’s own funds to work on piloting the outline strategic model. At its simplest level it consists of three linked strands which are, creating connectivity within a system, whilst simultaneously helping to develop capability and maximise capacity. What this means is briefly described below. Creating Connectivity Bring the right people and organisations together, with the purpose of focusing on gambling harm as an important public health issue, and gain recognition that an integrated joined up approach is essential for delivering the required response. Developing Capability Help to support the development of capability through increasing awareness of gambling harms and their impact on local population health. Thus, enabling the right people and organisations to assess how they can best bring their knowledge, skills, and other resources to help to respond to the issue in question. Maximising Capacity. Help to maximise system capacity by: - providing support to address any access barriers and to help reduce avoidable demand through assisting with prevention measures such as educating young people around risks of gambling. - engaging the voluntary sector to assist with signposting of individuals with gambling harm to relevant support or treatment services and where relevant offer their own services to help with achieving sustainable recovery from gambling harm and - developing a clearer understanding of need for services so that appropriate support can be commissioned. It is also based on creating system ownership of the issue and not dependency on one organisation or us as a charity. This is important to achieve sustainable service delivery. Three months ago, following a bid to the Essex Community Foundation, a small grant was awarded to our charity. This was to help us build on the work we had already delivered free to the system to date, and to enable us to grow and spread our work further across what is known as the Mid and South Essex Integrated Care System (ICS), which covers a population of around 1.2 million residents. The work we are progressing involves the following: Running awareness sessions for primary care practitioners at the Alliance Level. Within the Mid & South Essex ICS there are four of these. Engaging with key system organisations such as the Mid & South Essex NHS Foundation Trust with over 15,000 employees. Engaging with the Community and Voluntary Sector (CVS) via the various CVS district council organisations which exist across the ICS. and Providing access to free preventing gambling harm training to a group of schools within Braintree, Chelmsford, and Maldon. Also, to young people aged 17-24 years old at both the Anglia Ruskin University and Writtle College, all of whom form part of the Mid Essex Alliance. In addition, a range of other activities are being run in parallel. These include GHUK individuals becoming Trauma Ambassadors with Healthwatch Essex thereby raising gambling harm awareness at Healthwatch events. My liaising with personnel within the new NHS East of England (EoE) Gambling Treatment service provider and having discussions with public health leads across the ICS. Bit by bit this is helping us to create connectivity between organisations across the ICS. One recent example of this is us bringing together (Midlands Partnership NHS Trust (Inclusion) staff - part of the EoE NHS gambling treatment service) and Provide CIC staff, with GHUK to start work on developing content for the Essex Wellbeing Make Every Contact Count (MECC) system which will cover gambling harm. There is still lots more to do, and the full value of these inputs will take time to fully assess. However, early testimonials and feedback from those we are engaging with about our work and its approach, indicates that it is beneficial and seen of value. Examples of feedback received include: 1.Mid and South Essex NHS FoundationTrust: John Gilham, Chief Executive of Gambling Harm UK, attended the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust’s monthly “5pm Improvement Club” on 6 September 2023, providing a virtual session to Trust and broader heath care system staff about gambling harm, what it is, some of the drivers and consequences, as well as some signs of harm, and why and how to support people affected. John gave a passionate, informative, and insightful talk which was hugely valued by the audience, and feedback during and following from attendees was that the topic was very important, and they had learned a lot from the presentation. Colleagues from clinical, corporate, and operational teams posed questions to John to better understand how we could improve both as a care system and an employer in raising awareness of gambling harm and reducing stigma. As a result of this talk, a number of links and materials have been shared with the Trust and we will examine our current practice to identify where we can improve. We very much appreciated John’s contribution and are keen to support Gambling Harm UK in their vital work to help our population in this area. Charlotte Williams Chief Strategy & Improvement Officer Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust 2. Alliance Time to Learn Session’s for GP’s: Over 50 practitioners who have attended the two “Introduction to Gambling Harm” awareness sessions to date, have said they will now change their practice as a result of the gambling harm training delivered by GHUK. 3. Maldon and District CVS John speaks openly and informatively about his experience of gambling harm which resonates effectively with professionals in the voluntary sector. Often these professionals are well placed to understand the impact gambling can have on individuals and families. He is a compelling advocate for driving change and through Gambling Harm UK is able to effect that change. John has spoken at a community forum to the local sector which has led to opportunities to inform local asset mapping and signposting work, connections into mental health and men's health work and he is also able offer bespoke training. Gambling harm is often hidden and resources to help people affected not as easy to come by as other addictions so the work being undertaken by John and the team at Gambling Harm UK has the potential to be vitally important. Sarah Troop Director Maldon and District CVS 4.Castle Point CVS (CAVs) Gambling Harm UK’s endeavours are dedicated to the prevention and reduction of gambling harm. John Gilham, Chief Executive presented to an audience of over 100 people from local community organisations, health and social care, the Leader of Castle Point Council and the Mayor of Castle Point at CAVS Community event on the 25th October 2023. John’s presentation was compelling as he transparently spoke about the impact that gambling has not only on the person with the addiction but their family members, and others associated with them. The statistical detail that was presented, evidenced the scale of the challenge that faces our nation. Accessibility to on-line platforms, sophisticated and appealing marketing features strongly with not only the mature target audience but unfortunately with the rapidly growing younger population. CAVS membership groups are influential in their community and provide assistance and support to so many. As enablers the learning from John’s presentation of further educating and influencing on the subject of gambling harm, will be invaluable. Janis Gibson Chief Executive Officer Castle Point Association of Voluntary Services (CAVs) 5. Inclusion - NHS Midlands Partnership NHS Trust (EoE NHS Gambling Treatment Service) Gambling is impacting so many lives across all of our communities and it will be critical, as with other public health matters that we work together to raise awareness, learn together and ensure support is as easy to access as possible should it be needed. By working together with Gambling Harm UK and through the connections they are creating and opening, we can contribute more widely together in preventing the harm experienced and reducing any blocks that may exists for people who want to reach out for support. Andrew Ryan Operational Team We are looking forward as GHUK to developing this work further over coming months. A number of additional events have already been arranged across the ICS, including delivering our second Real Patient Simulated Based Medical Education Programme to 120-year 3 medical students at Anglia Ruskin University School of Medicine in November. With the increasing awareness and growing interest in the system, together with the presence of the new local EoE NHS gambling treatment service being delivered in Thurrock, there is now the foundation and the opportunity to further strengthen the connectivity, capability, and capacity within the system to help respond to those experiencing gambling harm as a public health issue. This work and developing our outline strategic model would not have been feasible without the help and support from those within the Mid & South Essex ICS. I would like to thank all those individuals who have responded to our request to meet and to discuss gambling harm and for then enabling GHUK to create connectivity between key people and organisations within the ICS by introducing us to their networks and inviting us to their events. Finally, I would also like to thank the following GHUK personnel who have contributed their time working with me within the Mid & South Essex ICS; my son Chris Gilham (Trustee), Dr Kishan Patel (Chair of Trustee’s), Lesley Buckland (Trustee) and Julie Martin (Associate). John Gilham CEO Gambling Harm UK

  • Gambling Harm UK (GHUK) – Funding Decisions

    In December 2022, our charity name was changed from Gambling Education Network to Gambling Harm UK. This change emerged from the trustees’ review of our work and a clearer understanding of the work we needed to do, in order to achieve the purpose of why the charity was established. On adopting our ethics policy, we discussed the challenging topic of financing and whether we should remain on the Gambling Commissions RET list. At that point having received only a £500 unconditional RET contribution to date, we decided to remain on the list. Recently we were approached by a gambling operator offering a £25,000 donation from their dormant balances. They asked us to raise an invoice so that they could make payment. The charity’s trustees discussed this matter and decided against accepting this donation. Whilst the trustees recognised that the funding may have helped to reduce pressure on our staff, volunteers and helped us towards our aims in the short term, they agreed that it was also important to maintain confidence in our value to be independent from industry influence. This is especially pertinent given the NHS's decision to stop accepting industry funding and in the context of our goals in achieving a public health approach to gambling harm. In discussing this offer, trustees also reflected on GHUK’s RET listing and decided remaining on this would not be appropriate. So as of the 21st September 2023, GHUK was removed from the RET list. We thought it was important to share our decision with our members and with others within the charity sector. Our decision is not intended to be critical of others who continue to remain on the RET list. GHUK’s trustees just believe it is the right decision for us. Raising funds continues to be a challenge. Regardless of this, we believe that to fulfil our purpose, we need to achieve financial independence via other routes. John Gilham CEO Dr Kishan Patel Chair of Trustees

  • By all means, have a breakdown, just not on weekends, please!

    It has taken me a few weeks to gain the courage and find the words to write this blog, as it is rather personal to me and about my own experience. I am an affected other of gambling harm for over 15 years and, in reality, over the 25-year relationship with my husband. Life became even more challenging after his gambling-related suicide in November 2021. My life has been a rollercoaster of mental health issues over this time, a mixture of depression, anxiety and now PTSD. Family life means I am usually alone at the weekends. I try not to contact friends as it's precious time for them to be with their partners and family. So on many occasions have been very lonely, having too much thinking time. It has resulted in me having, what I call, crisis days, where I overthink, bring myself down and become extremely low in my mood and thoughts. As for so many people, mental health and gambling harm can be very isolating and fraught with stigma. We cut ourselves off from the world to hide the shame we feel. On the days like these, I have usually turned to 24-hour charity telephone lines. They have become a lifeline and source of great comfort to me over the years. I can only express how grateful I am that they have always been there for me. But what brings me to write this difficult blog is what transpired just a few Sundays ago. I was having a particularly low crisis Sunday, my thought process had run wild, and I had brought myself to a point where I felt desperate. I could not distract myself or lighten my mood. My thoughts were dark and extremely sad, and I needed to talk to someone about my feelings over my husband's suicide. So I did what I always do and searched telephone numbers for suicide bereavement. I felt apprehension at sharing my thoughts and desperation over my current feelings, but I still dialled the number at 15.45 on Sunday afternoon. To get an answering machine message politely telling me that the office was closed and to call back at 9 am on Monday. So I did the next best thing, and at 15:46, I rang a 24-hour helpline I have used many times before. Tears streaming down my face, the phone is answered by another polite answering machine message again, politely telling me that all their lines were busy and I could call back later! This sent me completely spiralling into a black hole of despair for a few split seconds. Then my understanding and concern for others in the same position suddenly kicked in. I am lucky enough to have worked in the gambling harm charity sector for over three years. I have peer training and a sound awareness of mental health and crisis situations. I could control my thoughts and feelings at this point and consider how awful it could have been for somebody else. Somebody alone and in despair who didn't have my knowledge, someone like my husband who had reached his wit's end. What would have happened to them when reaching out for help and were rejected, not once, but twice? At a point where I knew my grief, guilt, and confusion were at a very low point. How would somebody else have coped in that situation, or even would they? Now, I am not here to criticise all of the fantastic work helpline charities do, but for myself and the millions of other service users that contact them monthly, there can not be times when answer phones are reached instead of real people. This country's mental health has suffered measurably since Covid, and with the added pressure of the cost of living and interest rate rises, we are all under much more stress than before. I have since tried contacting both charities involved, and of course, the issues are as expected volume of service users and funding. It is now when money needs to be made available to all charities that help with mental health, gambling harms, peer support, and bereavement (in fact, I could go on and on). I won't be dragged into the political war of words concerning funding. I will only talk from my heart, but things need to change. Something must change, and people need to become more important than profits. We must make the massive industries responsible for some of these addictions and mental health issues accountable. If support is not provided on mass and soon, then the already overwhelmed NHS will buckle, and we will lose even more lives too soon. Safe spaces and knowledgeable support must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so lives aren't lost, and families aren't left heartbroken. I am not an isolated case, but please always remember to keep trying. There is somebody out there somewhere. Before you get to crisis, don't let stigma keep you quiet. Many online websites and support charities are already available and can be accessed via the internet. I have listed some below to help anybody needing to reach out. Samaritans: Telephone Number, free phone. 116 123 https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/talk-us-phone/ Cruse Bereavement Support: 0808 808 1677 https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-support/helpline/ National Gambling Helpline: 0808 8020 133 (24-hour) https://www.begambleaware.org/ngsn Domestic Violence Support: The free phone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247 https://refuge.org.uk/i-need-help-now/how-we-can-help-you/national-domestic-abuse-helpline/ Suicide Support: https://www.spuk.org.uk/national-suicide-prevention-helpline-uk/ Open from 6 pm to midnight every day on 0800 689 5652.

  • Gambling Games Appeal to Children – Complaint to the ASA.

    Gambling Harm UK has submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about the proliferation of gambling games we believe have a ‘strong appeal’ to children and young people. Research has repeatedly found that children and young people are particularly vulnerable to gambling harms and can suffer potentially devastating life-long effects. Despite this, the Gambling Commission estimates that over 100,000 children aged 11-16 suffer harm from their own gambling. For this reason, the proliferation of games which appeal to children is unacceptable. We have previously surveyed our lived experience community to gauge opinion on whether certain games appealed to children. Due to the results of that survey and the introduction of updated guidance by the ASA, we endeavoured to investigate eleven of the top gambling sites. We found that whilst there were some improvements since our survey, a majority of the games we looked at were in breach of one or more of the ASA’s guidelines around ‘strong appeal’ to children. The full complaint letter and report can be found below: We received a response from the ASA, which maintained it was not failing to enforce standards. However, they committed to contacting each company in our report to ‘remind them of their responsibilities and highlighting any particular areas of concern’. They also committed to conducting a monitoring exercise this October (one year after the new guidance was published) to assess ‘whether there still remain any concerns about gaming tiles and strong appeal to under-18s’. We look forward to the results of this exercise and will re-examine the situation in October.

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