GambleAware Responds to All-party Parliamentary Group Criticism

The GambleAware CEO has written to the chair of the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group asking for clarification on comments made in the Group’s interim report. Marc Etches wrote a four-page letter stating that while GambleAware welcomes many of the recommendations, he is unhappy with criticism aimed at the charity.

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GambleAware responds to criticism © Pixabay.

In the Online Gambling Harm Inquiry interim report, released in November last year, the APPG said, “GambleAware collects funds from the industry to research and treat gambling addiction, but we are deeply concerned about the way they operate, and an urgent review of their role and effectiveness is required”.

In the letter, addressed to MP Carolyn Harris, Etches says it is not clear what is driving the APPG’s comments. The CEO points out that GambleAware supplied oral and written evidence to the Group last year and questioned if the concerns raised by the Group, go beyond “a general question around GambleAware’s independence and effectiveness”. The Group in their interim report has recommended that the commissioning of research should be taken away from GambleAware and the Gambling Commission and given to independent UK research councils, an approach the APPG state, is taken for other major public health issues in the UK.

The report also states that the treatment of gambling addiction and support for people experiencing gambling-related harm should be the remit of the NHS who the APPG say are the ideal choice due to their experience of commissioning and assessment of treatment services.

Answering these recommendations, Etches defending GambleAware’s record on the treatment of problem gamblers, stating that the charity already works with the NHS, stating;

We work with the NHS and others to ensure that appropriate treatment can be more easily available and free at the point of delivery. Marc Etches, GambleAware CEO.

The CEO pointed out that they already fund the National Gambling Helpline and work with a network of local providers who deliver treatment services that can include brief intervention, counselling, residential programmes and psychiatrist-led care. Etches also highlighted the introduction of two specialised clinics (London and Leeds) and the intention to open up 15 specialist problem gambling clinics in the next five years.

In response to APPG’s calls for public health campaigns, Etches highlighted the Bet Regret campaign which started last year and will run for two years — saying that the campaign is targeting the 2.4 million males aged between 16 and 34 years old. This group, states Etches, have been identified as being at the highest risk of having gambling-related issues. On the subject of research, Etches said that GambleAware had commissioned national research to improve knowledge on what works in prevention, education, treatment and support services and revealed that the charity was responsible for a significant research programme of over 30 projects which are either currently underway or are in the process of being developed.

Perhaps the most contentious comment made by the APPG in their report was one regarding funding for GambleAware and how the charity distributes funds. Etches defended the charity’s record stating that the voluntary donation-based system that has been in place for nearly a decade and they have been able to demonstrate it can work in “a partnership between government, statutory agencies and the charitable sector”.

Etches did concede that GambleAware would prefer a mandatory levy placed on gambling activities rather than the current funding model, citing that despite robust governance arrangements a small number of academics, researchers and other stakeholders continue to refuse funding because of industry donations. Etches refuted the accusation that the industry influences GambleAware but added that as an organisation, there was little they could do to stop this perception.

The APPG released the Online Gambling Harm Inquiry interim report in November 2019, the APPG hasn’t set a date for the publication of the full report.

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