Michael Dugher, CEO of the standards body the Betting and Gaming Council, has marked the beginning of ‘Safer Gambling Week’ in the UK by saying that the industry is committed to safer gambling ‘not for one week but for all year round.’
And Covid-19 restrictions which have led to the closure of betting shops and casinos across the UK will not prevent the week from being a success, he said.
Mr Dugher said the significance of the event – which is now in its fourth year – in kickstarting a national conversation on the importance of safer betting will be undiminished by the latest lockdowns.
Hundreds of betting shops in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be forced to keep their doors closed during Safer Gambling Week, which kicks off on November 19 and runs until November 25.
Nevertheless, the event’s strapline – ‘Let’s Talk About Safer Gambling’ – will still feature prominently online and in those venues which have escaped the current Covid restrictions.
As well as betting shops, casinos and online operators, arcades and bingo companies are also getting involved to promote the many tools available to help promote safer gambling.
These include initiating conversations with customers about the help that is available; promoting the setting of limits on spend or time played; safer gambling messages displayed in premise windows; and leaflets about help and support for customers.
Operator websites will also promote safer gambling messages to customers through banner ads or pop ups throughout the week.
Mr Dugher said: “Safer Gambling Week is incredibly important, but safer gambling should not be seen by anyone as simply something we support for one week of the year – it is a commitment for every week of the year.
“Since being set up a year ago, the BGC has been at the forefront of efforts to drive up standards within our industry.
“Some 30 million people in Britain enjoy a flutter every year – whether that’s in betting shops, casinos, playing bingo, betting and gaming online or on the National Lottery – and the vast majority do so perfectly safely.
“However, one problem gambler is one too many, which is why we are delighted to support Safer Gambling Week.
“The various lockdowns across the UK will inevitably mean that Safer Gambling Week 2020 will be different from those which have gone before, but its central theme remains as important as ever and will still be heard loud and clear.
“We have already made huge strides in our first year, including a requirement that at least 20 per cent of all TV and radio betting advertising be safer gambling messaging, introducing cooling off periods on gaming machines, encouraging deposit limits, bringing in new ID and age verification checks, and massively increasing funding for research, education and treatment.
“But we are eager to go further – and look forward to working with the Government on the Gambling Review to introduce further changes that ensure that the millions of people who enjoy an occasional flutter do so enjoyably and safely.”
The event also has the support of Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, who said: “Gambling operators have a responsibility to keep customers safe from harm. I’m pleased that the industry is coming together to recognise the importance of clear and consistent safer gambling messaging and to help those who need it find support.”
Neil McArthur, chief executive of industry regulator the Gambling Commission, said: “We welcome the emphasis on safer gambling and it is encouraging to see operators from all sectors collaborating to raise awareness of the need to put consumer safety at the heart of everything they do. Activities during the week are a mixture of communicating with customers and those in the broader audience about safer gambling, raising awareness of tools, tips and where to find more information and support, and time for the industry to reflect on their efforts to date, share knowledge and best practice and consider what more can be done to create a safer gambling environment.
“With so many betting shops and casinos across the country shut due to COVID-19 restrictions, the industry is focusing on the digital elements of the campaign, engaging with customers through their own digital channels and participating in the social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Do keep your eye on #SGWeek2020 to keep up to date with what’s going on,” she added. “This year, for the first time, we also have the Safer Gambling Forum, which will provide an opportunity for the industry to share knowledge and best practice about their year-round work on the subject.”