Adam Bradford, CEO of the Safer Online Gambling Group, discusses the increasingly important role of technology in bolstering the industry’s efforts to promote safer play.

Behind the 140 characters of noise fizzing around the Gambling Act review, Gambling Commission advisories and the safer gambling debate, teams of people are still dedicated to preventing gambling-related harm.

Those foot soldiers are the hard working folk in the gambling addiction support sector, a group of us that works steadfastly to innovate and provide effective solutions that can support gamblers and the industry to promote safer play.

We all know that gambling is a long-enjoyed form of entertainment and nobody across the political spectrum is calling for it to be banned or driven underground. There are however tactical actions the industry can take to continuously improve standards and make gambling safer for everyone.

The coronavirus pandemic has made every organisation think deeper, work harder and scrutinise its delivery. Education programmes have gone digital, customer service is led by advisors sat in their kitchens or in their home offices, and gambling still continues, more so online than before.

We’ve seen the big gambling firms report an increase in online revenues over the period of the pandemic; hence we are living in an increasingly digitised world where consumers now expect key services in the palm of their hands at a moment’s notice.

This made me and my team at the Safer Online Gambling Group think deeper – why can this not be the case for gambling support? Certain forms of virtual advice and guidance are beginning to take place digitally, in part forcibly so due to the impact of the pandemic. We have been pondering over a few key questions – how can this model become more integrated? How can it become more accessible to those who really need it, and how can we normalise safer gambling and not being afraid to reach out for help when it is required?

We have been blessed to work with some of the industry’s key names and experts in this field and have been busy creating digital tools that aim to provide rich support to gamblers at any point in their journey. We are passionate about ensuring a problem is prevented before it escalates – this approach is heavily embedded in our family’s own very personal experience and that of so many others we have spoken to and worked with.

One asset that most operators across the UK have always-on access to is technology – it never goes away, you don’t need to get in a taxi or on a train to get to it, and its ability to connect customers with resources and tools is instantaneous. As more organisations in our sector begin to roll out digital toolkits and virtual delivery of their services to support at-risk gamblers and to educate the public, we know that operators can lead the way in preventing gambling harms through their already existing portfolios.

That is why, instead of waiting for policy to catch up, we are imploring operators and the sector to look inwardly to what they already have and how they can adapt and mould this to provide greater support, quickly and richly to their consumers with an injection of support from those with lived experience and a vision to make sure that support and guidance is available to anyone gambling at key points in the customer journey.

It is a targeted way of providing key safety and support across the spectrum of consumers in an evidence-based, non-invasive way.

The review of the Gambling Act will no doubt be a rocky ride for everyone involved in this sector, but we firmly take the view that every challenge poses an opportunity for something better to come and to add our two-penneth to the debate, every review should be seen as a platform to show that more can be done in a proactive and supportive way to support those we are all so focused on prioritising.