Lee Willows, Co-Founder and CEO of charity the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM), thinks efforts to tackle problem gambling will improve now a number of Gambling Commission (GC) regulations have come into force.
This includes the GC making it mandatory for UK operators to make an annual financial contribution towards gambling research, prevention and treatment; a rule introduced this January.
GambleAware, GamCare and YGAM were the three initial charities listed to receive mandatory contributions, with five more added since.
The regulation follows a period of scrutiny for the industry involving problem gambling. According to statistics from the GC’s 2018/19 annual report, 340,000 UK adults are identified as problem gamblers.
Willows told Gambling Insider this move by the GC is “a positive step forward” and will help alleviate the issue of problem gambling.
He said: “I think the Gambling Commission taking responsibility for national strategy and opening up the opportunity for a wider number of stakeholders to engage with its delivery, is a really positive step forward. I have no doubt it will accelerate delivery and its impact.
“It gives confidence to the operators that they can donate as it’s counted towards their RET contribution. Working with us or GamCare directly means that operators can see where their money’s going.
“I think it will only improve problem gambling. I just hope there’s going to be more awareness and education, because gambling is a public health issue, a mental health issue and actually there’s a lot of stigma around gambling as well.”
In terms of what more can be done to help problem gambling, Willows believes continued education around the risks that come with gambling from a young age, is key.
Willows added: “We know only 3% or 4% of people receive treatment in the UK so more funding will enable more people to get treatment, which is crucial.
“There is a need to get high population, education programmes to raise the awareness of this as a public health issue, and then those people can go to for any help if they’re having problems with their gambling.
“The voice of lived experience is something the operators can learn from and also many of us former gambling addicts want to give something back, so if we can give something back in some way, it’s turning what is a negative experience into something potentially quite positive for us.”