GambleAware responds to Good Law Project’s false complaint

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GambleAware stands by its reputation and independence as the UK’s leading charity fighting gambling addiction and minimising problem gambling harms.

The stern response was issued by the charity this weekend, replying to a damning article by iNews (DMG Media) accusing GambleAware of promoting the interests of the gambling sector.

The article confirmed that a ‘regulatory compliance case’ had been opened by the Charity Commission, due to a complaint submitted by the Good Law Project.

A non-profit organisation led by Will Prochaska, the Good Law Project claims that GambleAware has failed in its regulatory duties as a UK-licensed charity due to a striking conflict of interest, being directly funded by the gambling sector.

The complaint further questioned GambleAware’s treatment services, educational materials, advertising, and self-help tools, accusing them of normalising gambling, promoting wrong advice, and stigmatising those with harms.

Issuing a response, GambleAware CEO, Zoë Osmond, stated that the allegations were “inaccurate and misleading” regarding how the charity operates, is governed, and raises funds to combat gambling addiction.

“GambleAware’s foremost priority is to prevent harm and provide accessible support to those affected. These services are vital, remarkably effective, and readily accessible.”

As the chief commissioning charity of gambling harm research, education, and treatment (RET) projects, services, and organisations operating in the UK, GambleAware holds the gambling sector accountable to licensing duties on social responsibility as part of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

“Gambling operator funding remains the primary source of funding for prevention, treatment, and research into gambling harm. Many charities and organisations receive this funding through the Gambling Commission.”

Aware of concerns regarding its independence from the gambling sector, GambleAware has been the most ardent supporter of the government imposing a statutory levy on RET funding as proposed by the Gambling Review’s White Paper.

“We believe the gambling industry should be held accountable to contribute financially to the vital services that prevent gambling harms, which is why we have consistently advocated for a statutory levy.”

The response provided a full background on GambleAware, stating that “independence has been recognised by the Charity Commission for well over a decade, with previous accusations found to be ‘unsubstantiated’. GambleAware has evolved as an organisation over the years and maintained its independence, with a Board of Trustees made up of leaders in the NHS and public health.”

“Our robust governance and commissioning practices ensure that the industry has no influence over our operations. GambleAware’s independence has been widely recognised by a range of stakeholders including the Government, as evidenced in the Gambling White Paper.”

Osmond refuted the Good Law Project’s complaint, stating that it is “based on misleading and outdated information”. GambleAware is “confident that this complaint will not be upheld. We are deeply concerned that inaccurate headlines and misleading newspaper articles may have a damaging impact on our services and the people that rely on them.”

The iNews article highlighted concerns about the effectiveness of the treatment services commissioned by GambleAware, claiming that “a quarter of addicts treated show no improvement”.

GambleAware highlighted the National Gambling Support Network statistics detailing “patients who complete their treatment as planned, nine in 10 see an improvement in their condition. Among the minority of patients whose outcomes appear not to improve, in most cases (69 per cent) it is because they did not complete treatment.”

“There are a range of reasons why an individual might not complete treatment, including: being referred to another service for further support; being discharged by mutual agreement; an individual choosing to drop out of their treatment.”

Complaints lodged about ‘educational materials’ detailed that GambleAware advised audiences “not to demonise the gambling sector” and presented gambling as a normal and manageable activity.

GambleAware stands by its educational materials and programmes, that are designed with input from individuals with lived experience and subject to independent evaluation.

On criticism of its advertising campaign stigmatising gambling harms, GambleAware underlined its ardent support for tougher restrictions on gambling advertising, noting: “When the White Paper was published, we called on the lack of regulation in this space as a ‘missed opportunity’ and continue to encourage the Government to do more on this issue.”

As the government moves to finalise the structure of the RET Levy, with the support of the NHS to strengthen its National Gambling Support Network (NGSN), GambleAware will serve as a key stakeholder “dedicated to tackling gambling harms as a public health issue through a whole system approach and societal change”.

“We do this by bringing together public sector and charity partners into a coalition of expertise to provide targeted, innovative and effective services that help reduce gambling harm.”

The response was concluded by the lived experience of Ben Howard providing a personal testimony of GambleAware’s life-saving impact: “The NGSN not only provided me with life-changing guidance, but saved me from suicide in 2020.

“From this, I know first-hand just how essential and effective these services are and they continue to help thousands of people every year. Any claims that the services are unhelpful or inadequate are not only wrong, but also highly damaging and stigmatising for those needing support.”