In June the biggest five operators in the UK, and members of the Betting and Gaming Council, confirmed that they would provide £100m worth of funding to GambleAware to improve treatment services, but what’s the best way to spend the money?

That was the question posed to Paul Buck, CEO of Epic Risk Management, Minal Jain, co-founder of RecoverMe and Martin Lycka, director of regulatory affairs, GVC Holdings, in a panel discussion at SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital, led by Daniel Bliss, head of external affairs at YGAM, who ably assumed the moderating role.

The 40 minute session travelled down numerous avenues of the research, education and treatment paradigm, addressing a need to remove stigma, improve education and increase signposting, as well as touching on responsibilities assumed by operators, the necessity of correctly utilising lived experience and delivering anonymised methods.

A necessity to adopt a balanced approach was the initial message delivered by Buck: “I think, first of all, that it is a very positive move that there is a much greater investment into research education and treatment and how it’s looked at. I think that’s very positive, I think it’s overdue, but it’s very positive and it’s a good sign of intent from the industry. 

“I think the important thing here for me is getting around the logic of why the full £100m would go to treatment, we know at the moment that there’s only a very small percentage who present themselves for treatment, ranging from around three per cent to six per cent depending on where you look, and I think that by investing it purely into treatment all we are probably doing is creating an environment going forward where we get more and more people falling off the edge of a cliff, and at least they have somewhere to be treated if that amount of money has been invested.

“So, for me I don’t think it’s the right model to put 100 per cent into treatment, and I would personally, if you ask me for figures, go for maybe 60 per cent into treatment, 20 per cent into research and 20 per cent into prevention and education.”

“…we need to embrace technology”

Asserting that all exercises need to start with prevention and crucial education, Lycka backed-up the opening statement: “I believe that the split needs to be more balanced than just whack it all on treatment. More money needs to be spent on treatment not only in the UK but in many other countries that have been the poor sister of prevention, research and education in the last few years, but at the same time it can’t be the case that the other relatives that so far have been better funded would lose that funding.”

In an ever changing world, and industry, all panellists emphasised that “it is not a one size fits all addiction,” with individuals, triggered by a range of factors, needing to have a variety of services to be able to recover and have a positive life going forwards. 

Jain travelled down one particular route that she believes is essential in today’s environment: “I think going forward what we really need to be investing in is, to continue investing in solutions that already work but, to be looking at innovative and disruptive technologies that could potentially change the landscape because we’ll be offering choices to those suffering. 

“They’ll have the ability to access treatment in a different way, they might respond slightly differently but we can also facilitate pathways into treatment.

“So, from my perspective the integration of current services is really important and looking to see how we can embrace technology, like RecoverME for example, is something that we could focus our energies on.”

“I also agree with Minal that we need to embrace technology I think, either as part of the process or a big part of the process,” Buck continued. 

Adding: “Embracing technology will mean a much greater number of people, a much greater percentage of people, will be able access treatment 24/7 in exactly the same way that they can access gambling 24/7. 

“I’m a big believer in expanding the great stuff that is already going on, but also really embracing technology so that a greater number [can gain access], such as that three per cent getting to ten per cent, twenty per cent, thirty per cent and beyond, going forward in the future.”

I think that it’s crucial going forward that we have a more balanced approach”

Emphasising the advantages offered by mobile apps, particularly with certain activities, such as group sessions, potentially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Lycka elaborated on the necessity to embrace technology.

“The bottom being line being that having anonymised methods of obtaining the relevant information, but also having opportunities to talk to the professionals in a way that makes sure that I will not be stigmatised for going and trying to resolve my problem, will ultimately be extremely extremely helpful because there are a lot of people out there that, for very good reasons, are not prepared to share that they have this problem, and at this same time they will be able to resolve, or try to resolve this, by electronic means because they will simply feel much more comfortable with it. 

“It will give them the chance to do something about their gambling problem, whereas if they had to force themselves to attend a gamblers anonymous session, for example, they may not like it, they may not get the most out of it, and unfortunately their problem might develop a little but further.”  

Following a deep discussion across each of the RET segments talk returned to the title of the session, with each panellist offering a succinct answer to the question ‘What’s the best way to spend £100m?’

“I think that it’s crucial going forward that we have a more balanced approach, like we have discussed today, it can’t all go to treatment. We need to better education, we need better awareness and consequently then we might be treating less people,” Jain began. 

“That money needs to be spent both sensibly and efficiently with a view to protecting customers’ interests in this space,” added Lycka.

With Buck rounding off the session: “For me, it’s completely nonsensical that the £100m would go to a treatment infrastructure that wouldn’t be able to deal with it, so there needs to be a lot more emphasis on, lets prevent people from getting to the edge of a cliff in the first place rather than just treat them once they have fallen off.”

SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital takes place over four days this week (8 – 11 September) and features four main zones – Sports BettingCasino & GamingPayments & Compliance, and Affiliate & Marketing – each of which have their own conference tracks, networking roundtables and interactive expo halls. 

Click here to secure your free pass for the betting & gaming industry’s largest ever virtual event.