Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), has warned MPs that there is ‘too much fiction swirled around the debate of gambling’ in a recent article for Commons news source Politicshome.com.
With the review of the 2005 Gambling Act in its ‘call-for-evidence’ phase, Dugher and the BGC have welcomed the government’s ‘determination to drive big changes’ by way of evidence-led decisions.
However, the former Labour MP has moved to ‘set the record straight’ on the gambling industry as it comes under attack by the hysteria propagated by the UK’s anti-gambling lobby.
Dugher states that the evidence does not suit prohibitionists’ narratives of an ‘explosion in problem gambling’, as the UK’s addiction rate of 0.5% of the adult population is comparatively low against international standards – with rates remaining ‘broadly steady around or below one per cent for the past 20 years.’
Facing reality, Dugher remarked that prohibitionists have focused their attention on generating discord related to underage gambling as a key component of the review.
He stated: “Most recently, prohibitionists sadly chose to spread images on social media of children wearing football kits with imitation betting firm logos on them answering the door to their favourite players. The kids are then able to have a bet on a football game. This may be emotive, but it’s also mendacious and irresponsible.”
The campaign disappointed Dugher, who noted that anyone aware of UK gambling laws would know that betting operators’ logos cannot appear on children’s merchandise including replica football kits.
Meanwhile, the BGC and its members have operated a zero-tolerance approach to underage gambling – welcoming DCMS’ guarantee to increase the purchase age to +18 across National Lottery products.
Placing underage protections at the forefront of its agenda, Dugher underlined the BGC’s work in updating the ‘Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising’ to further prevent under-18s from seeing betting adverts online.
Drastic changes have led to members ensuring that all sponsored/paid adverts on social media platforms are targeted at over-25s. Furthermore, only websites that can guarantee to target +18s audiences can be allowed to display betting-related adverts.
The BGC stated that it has developed the strongest network of stakeholders and technology partners improving standards and protections with regards to underage gambling engagements and interactions.
Dugher explained: “We welcome the fact that Google has recently started allowing people to opt-out of most gambling advertising on its platform.
“These changes are clearly making a difference as the Advertising Standards Authority recently announced that, following its latest advertisement review, the number of betting ads appearing on inappropriate sites was down by 93%.”
Moving against prohibitionists’ narrow recommendations, the BGC underscored the industry’s £10m commitment to fund the ‘Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme’, led by YGAM and GamCare placing education at the forefront of protection.
Leading the BGC Dugher emphasised that the industry’s positive results and improvements on problem and underage had been backed by independent evidence gathered by PWC and Enders Analysis.
Ahead of vital 2021 proceedings, the BGC will continue to be guided by evidence-led approach as it continues its critical work.
Dugher concluded: “Ministers have said that they will seek to get the balance right in future changes – protecting the enjoyment of millions of people who enjoy a flutter – whether that’s on sports or on bingo or the Lottery – but at the same time what more can be done to protect the vulnerable.
“This is the right approach. So let’s have ‘evidence-led’ decisions that are based on facts, not the fiction that can too often swirl around this debate.”