Safer Gambling Week officially gets underway today, spearheaded by its ‘Let’s Talk About Safer Gambling’ strapline once again, with the campaign set to see over 100,000 staff at more than 9,000 gambling venues and online sites participate

To coincide with the commencement, and representing a continuation of CasinoBeats’ SGW series on content to coincide with the initiative, Jack Symons, co-founder and director of Gamban, takes the hot seat.

Before going on to elaborate on the action that needs to be taken to combat the threat of the black market, as well as taking a look at the multitude of tools available, Symons begins addressing SGW itself and what this means for Gamban.

Safer Gambling Week aims to encourage safer gambling behaviour – crucial for a sustainable industry. For many, gambling is a source of entertainment and Safer Gambling Week aims to encourage affordable gambling,” he says.

“For those who find it hard to control their gambling activity, Safer Gambling Week reinforces the importance of exclusion measures such as Gamstop, Gamban and transaction blocking through most banks. 

“In these strange and uncertain times under lockdown, we just want to remind people that help is there for those who need it – and a good place to start is with the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133. We’ve got a number of significant updates on the horizon and look forward to sharing these on the run up to Christmas.”

“…there’s a powerful impact on reducing the stigma around gambling addiction”

Materials associated with the campaign, which are available for all participants, will portray six messages in an attempt to engage with audiences, with each item providing details of free and confidential contact points for further information and advice. The key messages are:

  • Ask yourself…  have you carried on past your spending limit?
  • Just a heads up… it’s good to set yourself limits.
  • Just a heads up…  it’s easy to lose track of time when gambling.
  • Play smart…  know when to stop.
  • Remember…  friends and family are more important than gambling.
  • Remember…  gambling is not a way to make money.

With this in mind, Symons commented on what he hopes stakeholders and the general public take away from the week: “To better understand the risks and indicators of harm so that gambling can remain a source of entertainment. By tackling this issue head on, there’s a powerful impact on reducing the stigma around gambling addiction, which may prevent some people from getting help. 

“For those who feel their gambling activity may be getting out of control, helping to identify strategies to keep themselves in check and within the boundaries of affordable play is part of the week’s objective.”

Before moving on to detail the importance of the industry ensuring that the messages associated with SGW continue to continue to be spread all year round: “Communication of tools and support must be consistent, concise and prompt. Naturally, it’s following a significant loss that a player is willing to engage in help and support. 

Black market gambling … has the potential to be a serious threat to industry and player safety”

“When someone needs help, they are likely to be at their most vulnerable. We understand that the best barriers are blocking software (Gamban), the National Online Self-Exclusion Scheme (Gamstop) and transaction blocking delivered through [most] banks.

“Ensuring these three tools are delivered, in combination with someone to talk to (National Gambling Helpline) – without the distraction of cluttered RG pages – is critical. Recognising that self-exclusion is a last resort, industry and players alike must ensure activity is within safe boundaries, particularly time and money.”

Across numerous jurisdictions the talk of grey and black market threats has been a consistent theme throughout the year, with warnings over the latter in particular voiced by several parties as heightened restrictions are imposed and, potentially, extended.

Coming ahead of an impending UK government review of the 2005 Gambling Act, which itself has been under the spotlight for much of 2020, Symons focuses on the UK’s black market and what action he believes needs to be taken to combat the threat. 

“In the context of the UK, there is no such thing as ‘grey’ market; it’s black or white. Black market gambling is almost indistinguishable from regulated products and has the potential to be a serious threat to industry and player safety,” Symons explained. 

“While Gamban blocks the black market as well as regulated products for those wishing to self-exclude, the accessibility of these unregulated products ideally needs to be addressed at government and ISP-level. 

The more barriers, the more friction. The more friction, the harder it is to act on impulse”

“In addition to the issue of unregulated products, consider the impact of emerging products such as cryptocurrencies and skins gambling – again, blocked by Gamban but not necessarily accepted yet officially as gambling products.  

“Achieving one hundred percent eradication is unlikely but there is hope – following a successful launch, Yield Sec are developing solutions to significantly reduce the harm of black market influence through lost tax revenue and better player protection.”

With numerous tools being available to help gamblers manage activity, Symons has previously stated to CasinoBeats that “self-exclusion works best when multiple barriers are put in place.”

To conclude, the Gamban co-founder and director developed on this point: “The more barriers, the more friction. The more friction, the harder it is to act on impulse.

“We know that any one tool in isolation is fairly simple to bypass but in layering up the tools (e.g Gamstop, Gamban, transaction blocking through most banks) overcoming these obstacles is much more difficult and the time it takes to gain access and deposit, gives enough time to think and break the thought-action cycle. Combining these tools with treatment and therapy is the very best approach to recovery.”