UK’s RGSB sets out national harm minimisation plan

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The RGSB, a body responsible for advising the Gambling Commission and Department for Culture, Media and Sport on education and research related to responsible gambling, has unveiled its latest harm minimisation strategy covering the next three years.


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Responsible Gambling Strategy Board has published a twelve-point strategy identifying key priorities for reducing gambling-related harm that it has pledged to pursue over the next three years.

The 38-page strategy document lists priority actions such as understanding and measuring harm, improving methods of identifying harmful play, piloting interventions, providing education to prevent gambling-related harm and building the quality and capacity of treatment for problem gamblers and others affected.

Some of these initiatives, such as the measurement of harm and research and evaluation, will be led by the RGSB and the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT), while others will be the responsibility of the industry and, in particular, customer- facing gambling operators.

“The strategy sets out a vision of what a desirable outcome would look like although we recognise that achieving the vision will be a significant challenge, requiring expertise, resources and commitment from a diverse range of stakeholders,” said RGSB chairman Sir Christopher Kelly.

“In recent years some positive steps have been taken to tackle gambling-related problems and this strategy is designed to build on those foundations.”

In an overview of the current issues affecting the industry’s response to gambling-related harm, the RGSB recognised an increased willingness on the part of operators to accept responsibility for harm minimisation and adopt a proactive role in new measures.

Nevertheless, the organisation stated that the goodwill of the industry had not yet translated into a tangible reduction in harm, and added that the rapid pace of technological advancements – including the rise in mobile and social gaming and the potential for targeted advertising – had presented their own unique challenges.

“Greater acceptance of responsibility does not easily translate into effective action given the, as yet, limited evidence about what works. Nor have all the (hopefully transitional) problems with new approaches been completely resolved,” it said.

Under the new strategy, industry stakeholders – and most notably operators – will be expected to contribute to innovative methods of identifying problem gambling and designing successful interventions. This will include the development of new algorithms in gaming machines and online gaming sites that are designed to recognise patterns of problematic gambling for both account-based and anonymous play.

“If particular algorithms prove to be successful in one company’s operations, it is likely they will be successful in those of another, allowing for different circumstances. This work should not therefore be regarded as a competitive exercise,” the document advised.

The industry will also be expected to take a pioneering role in the implementation of selfexclusion regimes and other forms of intervention, with operators encouraged to “experiment” to find the most effective methods of helping customers.

“Identifying harmful play is of little use in itself unless it is followed by successful intervention designed to inhibit it, or to mitigate its effects,” the RGSB added. “There is now welcome acceptance among many operators of the need to experiment with different forms of intervention – customer interaction, messaging, debit card blocking and so on – either at the level of individual firms or collectively through industry groups such as IGRG and the Senet Group.”

There was also a strong focus on transparency, with the RGSB stating that it was vital for “good industry data” about all forms of gambling to be “freely shared with those with a legitimate interest, restricted only by reasonable constraints related to commercial confidentiality.”

In response to the new strategy, the RGT released a statement of support, with chair Neil Goulden stating that the trust “shared the priorities” laid out by the RGSB. “In particular, RGT’s focus is on the development of more effective harm minimisation for those whose gambling becomes problematic,” he said. “We also believe that prevention is better than having to help individuals, families and society deal with the consequences of problem or dependent gambling.

“It’s not just about funding treatment – it’s about preventing harm and misery caused by problem gambling. RGT is committed to working in close partnership with RGSB, the Gambling Commission and other health, social services and criminal justice organisations to play our part in delivering this.”

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