Gambling, and its effects on consumers across the globe, continues to be a contentious issue. Whether to address high levels of sponsorship and advertisement for gambling firms in sports, or the accumulation of gambling debt, calls for new and increased levels of regulation have remained.
Such calls were recently renewed by UK gambling awareness charity GamCare, which says that stronger partnership is required across the credit, debt advice, and gambling sectors, to tackle gambling-related debt.
Rising interest rates and a cost of living crisis have potentially increased the risk of consumers getting into gambling-related debt.
A 2022 YouGov report found that, globally, gamblers in Great Britain were among the least likely to discuss gambling with their family and friends. Only 28 per cent of those who had placed a bet in the last year spoke about it. Across Europe, an average of 40 per cent of annual gamblers discussed it. This arguably highlights that a stigma surrounding the perception of those who gamble still exists in the digital age.
In an effort to address gambling-related debt, the charity held insight workshops as part of its Gambling Related Financial Harm (GRFH) programme. The cross-sector initiative looks to bring the relevant sectors together to share knowledge and discuss steps. Its most recent workshop brought together representatives from financial services companies, debt advice, gambling businesses and gambling support services.
The workshop saw expert panellists from Lloyds Banking Group, Citizens Advice, StepChange and Bristol University, looked to address issues flagged by recent data released by the National Gambling Treatment Service. The gambling-related harm support organisation found that six out of 10 people accessing gambling treatment had debts due to gambling, with 2 per cent unable to pay their debts – either bankrupt or in an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA).
Katie Fry, project development manager at Citizens Advice, said: “By directly referring people to GamCare we can quickly get them the right support they need to move forward with their problems.”
Building partnerships and collaborating
From April 2023, new regional alliances will bring groups of providers together to provide support and treatment services to individuals affected by gambling harms. The adjustment comes as part of the National Gambling Treatment Service.
As a result, GamCare suggests that this is “an opportune time” for organisations to collaborate to tackle gambling-related debt. While regulation potentially has a greater role to play, the gambling awareness charity explained that collaboration can do significant good in the meantime.
GamCare has already begun building close partnerships with organisations offering regulated and free debt advice. The charity cited how its treatment practitioners work directly with UK-based debt advice provider PayPlan. Clients with debts are now referred to PayPlan’s team for specialist debt advice support thanks to the collaboration.
Emma Gibbons, vulnerable client lead at PayPlan, commented on the partnership. She explained: “As part of our partnership, we have a specialist advice team in place who work closely with GamCare, ensuring a ‘tell us once’, confidential and tailored approach to client’s needs.
“We’ve also ensured that all of our operational staff have received GamCare’s training, to understand the indicators and barriers clients tackling gambling-related financial harm often face.”
GamCare suggestions for action
The gambling awareness charity called for collaboration, offering suggestions for how companies could work together to support those affected by gambling.
It suggested that gambling help and support pages, safer gambling pages(including gambling operator websites) and leaflets should include information about money and debt management for those affected. This should be developed in collaboration with the debt advice and gambling support sectors, as well as those with lived experience of GRFH.
Among a range of suggestions, GamCare also suggests that debt advisers should “routinely signpost at-risk clients” to sources of help (including self-help tools, gambling blocks, blocking software and self-exclusion).