GambleAware hits back at misleading complaint of Good Law Project

GambleAware has  defended its reputation and independence as the UK’s leading charity fighting gambling addiction and minimising problem gambling harms.

The charity issued a stern response this weekend to a damning article by iNews (DMG Media), which accused GambleAware of promoting the interests of the gambling sector.

iNews ‘exclusive article’ revealed that the Charity Commission had opened a ‘regulatory compliance case’ following a complaint submitted by the Good Law Project. A non-profit organisation, led by Will Prochaska, the Good Law Project claims that GambleAware has failed in its regulatory duties as a UK-licensed charity due to a significant conflict of interest, being directly funded by the gambling sector.

The Good Law Project’s complaint further questioned GambleAware’s treatment services, educational materials, advertising, and self-help tools, alleging they normalise gambling, promote incorrect advice, and stigmatise those with gambling harms.

Issuing a response, GambleAware CEO Zoë Osmond refuted these allegations, labelling them as “inaccurate and misleading” regarding how the charity operates, is governed, and raises funds to combat gambling addiction. The Charity emphasised that “GambleAware’s foremost priority is to prevent harm and provide accessible support to those affected. These services are vital, remarkably effective, and readily accessible.”

As the chief commissioning charity of gambling harm research, education, and treatment (RET) projects, services, and organisations operating in the UK, GambleAware holds the gambling sector accountable to licensing duties on social responsibility as part of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

Osmond stated, “Gambling operator funding remains the primary source of funding for prevention, treatment, and research into gambling harm. Many charities and organisations receive this funding through the Gambling Commission.”

Addressing concerns about its independence from the gambling sector, GambleAware has been the most ardent supporter of the government imposing a statutory levy on RET funding, as proposed by the Gambling Review’s White Paper. “We believe the gambling industry should be held accountable to contribute financially to the vital services that prevent gambling harms, which is why we have consistently advocated for a statutory levy,” Osmond said.

GambleAware provided a full background on its independence, stating that it has been recognised by the Charity Commission for well over a decade, with previous accusations found to be ‘unsubstantiated’. The charity has evolved over the years, maintaining its independence with a Board of Trustees comprised of leaders in the NHS and public health. “Our robust governance and commissioning practices ensure that the industry has no influence over our operations. GambleAware’s independence has been widely recognised by a range of stakeholders including the Government, as evidenced in the Gambling White Paper,” Osmond noted.

Osmond refuted the Good Law Project’s complaint, stating it is “based on misleading and outdated information” and expressed confidence that the complaint “will not be upheld but voiced deep concern that inaccurate headlines and misleading newspaper articles could damage services and the people who rely on them.”

The iNews article raised concerns about the effectiveness of the treatment services commissioned by GambleAware, claiming that “a quarter of addicts treated show no improvement”. GambleAware responded by highlighting latest statistics from the National Gambling Support Network, which showed that “patients who complete their treatment as planned, 9 in 10 see an improvement in their condition. Among the minority of patients whose outcomes appear not to improve, in most cases (69%) it is because they did not complete treatment.”

“There are a range of reasons why an individual might not complete treatment, including being referred to another service for further support, being discharged by mutual agreement, or choosing to drop out of their treatment.”

Complaints about GambleAware’s educational materials alleged that the charity advised audiences “not to demonise the gambling sector” and presented gambling as a normal and manageable activity. GambleAware stands by its educational materials and programmes, which are designed with input from individuals with lived experience and subject to independent evaluation.

Addressing criticism of its advertising campaign for stigmatising gambling harms, GambleAware highlighted its strong support for tougher restrictions on gambling advertising. The response noted, “When the White Paper was published, we called on the lack of regulation in this space as a ‘missed opportunity’ and continue to encourage the Government to do more on this issue.”

As the government moves to finalise the operating structure of the RET Levy, with the support of the NHS to strengthen its National Gambling Support Network (NGSN). GambleAware will continue to serve as a key stakeholder “dedicated to tackling gambling harms as a public health issue through a whole system approach and societal change.”

The charity added: “We do this by bringing together public sector and charity partners into a coalition of expertise to provide targeted, innovative and effective services that help reduce gambling harm.”

The response concluded with a personal testimony from Ben Howard, who shared his lived experience of GambleAware’s life-saving impact: “The NGSN not only provided me with life-changing guidance but saved me from suicide in 2020. From this, I know first-hand just how essential and effective these services are and they continue to help thousands of people every year. Any claims that the services are unhelpful or inadequate are not only wrong but also highly damaging and stigmatising for those needing support.”