The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has defended its relationship with GambleAware by restating that its members have ‘no say’ on how research, education and treatment (RET) projects/initiatives are funded.
On Saturday, the trade body published a Twitter thread denying The Guardian’s report that it wanted to redirect “a quarter of funds” donated to GambleAware to “projects chosen by bet365, Flutter Entertainment, GVC Holdings and William Hill.”
The report repeated concerns related to the independence of GambleAware as the main commissioning charity for RET projects and how it will choose to distribute the £100m ‘funding commitment’ guaranteed by UK gambling’s ‘Big-4’ operators by 2024.
The Guardian cited that “sources at GambleAware said there had been a significant shift in plans for how further money tackling industry harm would be spent”, – which the BGC branded as misleading.
Once again, the BGC would be scolded by leading gambling reformist Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Vice Chair of the Gambling Harm APPG, who branded the industry’s participation in RET funding as “a racket that simply has to end”.
Responding via Twitter, the BGC defended its members, stating, “the industry has absolutely no say on how this funding is spent by charities, nor does it seek one”.
Members of the trade body remain “100% committed” to provide GambleAware with “£110m in RET funding by the end of March 2024”. The BGC further rebutted “anti-gambling criticisms of chosen causes”, stating that funding had been distributed to proven organisations such as GamCare and YGAM.
Concluding its thread, it outlined, “We do not expect those who profit from the gambling industry in Britain to direct all RET financial contributions to GambleAware, nor do we seek to restrict what donations are made to other safer gambling initiatives or organisations” – in which GambleAware maintains complete transparency by publishing its full list of donors.
Pressure mounts on the government to intervene on RET affairs, in which gambling reformists such as Gambling with Lives (GWL) and senior NHS clinicians have demanded that a 1% mandatory GGY levy be applied on operators to fund an independent body to replace GambleAware as commissioner of grants.
Excluded from participating in the development of the NHS’ network of problem gambling clinics, GambleAware has previously reiterated its support for a mandatory levy.
The measure is supported by CEO Zoë Osmond, who stated that it would remove “inconsistencies in operator donations and provide a sustainable funding model to support future projects and programmes.”
DCMS has reassured frustrated stakeholders of its determination to publish the Gambling Review’s White Paper in February 2023, marked down as an objective of PM Rishi Sunak’s early premiership.
2022 ended with Sunak stating that his cabinet had listened to the experts on gambling affairs, taking on tougher new measures to prevent harm and suicide.
It remains to be seen whether the government will determine RET structures, a subject that has divided expert opinion and may require further regulatory evaluation beyond the White Paper.
DCMS has warned industry leadership that the debate on gambling’s social impact will not disappear from the government’s agenda, irrespective of Gambling Review reforms.