We want to make better and faster progress to reduce gambling harms - that is the sole and critical aim of this National Strategy for the next three years.
To drive this faster progress, we are putting the full weight of regulation behind this strategy by taking on ownership of it from our advisers, now named the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (previously Responsible Gambling Strategy Board). We welcome the positive contribution that their previous strategy had on ensuring that gambling harms are recognised as a public health issue.
Building on that contribution, there is now a real opportunity to move faster and go further to have a positive and significant impact on reducing the harms that gambling can cause to individuals, families, and society.
Reducing gambling harms will not be without challenges, not least because we need to know more about where and how those harms are felt. We know a great deal about how much gambling takes place, and we have a reasonable picture about the numbers of problem gamblers. We certainly know that the harms associated with gambling can have significant impacts for some on health and wellbeing, relationships, families, and society - at its most serious it can be a factor in suicide. However, we do not have a full understanding of how harms are experienced and how best to protect against them.
That is why a central action within the strategy is to implement the framework that we published with our partners last year to understand and measure gambling harms.
Real progress requires all of us to change our mindset about the risks associated with gambling - we need to move away from solely counting problem gamblers towards understanding the harms that are being experienced, and ensure widespread adoption of measures that work to protect against those harms.
This change in mindset will take time to implement fully. This is because we will need to gather new datasets and indicators of success. We will need to increase public understanding of the risks associated with gambling and how to protect against them individually, as families and as a society. However, that does not mean that we should wait before we take action.
Significant progress can be made now. The Commission will help to drive this by using our regulatory powers to the full, and by working in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders.
There are some very encouraging developments from our partners to recognise gambling harms as a public health issue and to take action. The most significant is perhaps the announcement in the NHS Long Term Plan for England of an investment to expand NHS specialist clinics to help more people with serious gambling problems, and working with partners to tackle the problems at source.
There is now a need to build on these positive steps to ensure that progress is made at a faster pace and at a national level.
Delivering the strategy will depend on sufficient and consistent funding. The Government indicated in its Gambling Review that it would consider alternative options, one of which might be a mandatory levy, if the gambling industry fail to provide sufficient resources under the current voluntary arrangements. We, the Gambling Commission, are committed to pushing industry to meet their responsibilities in this space, but we have also publicly stated our support for an appropriate levy as provided for in the Gambling Act 2005 which would be a significant part of providing a greater consistency of funding based on need.
Of course, funding is only one part of the picture. Successful delivery of the strategy will also require collective effort and engagement from a wide range of stakeholders across Scotland, England and Wales in the health and social care, financial, education and charitable sectors. In shaping this strategy, we have reached out to a broad range of people and organisations who have an interest and a voice in reducing gambling harms. We are reassured that, across that spectrum of stakeholders, there is a clear appetite and desire to work together.
Importantly, that engagement places the voice of consumers, especially those with lived experience of gambling harms, often referred to as ‘experts by experience’, right at the heart of developing this strategy. As we and others turn the strategy into action there will be a continuing commitment to keep listening to those voices and involving consumers in the dialogue on how to move forward.
We are committed to using the full range of our regulatory powers to play our part in making this strategy a success and call on all those who also have a role in making gambling safer to play their part in reducing gambling harms.