WATCH: Embracing technology key for safer gambling strategies

The uptake of innovative technology could be a key component in global safer gambling strategies as funding begins to increase.

That was agreed by panelists at this month’s SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital, who pinpointed the need to significantly increase the low number of people who seek treatment.

You can also click here to see the full panel from the event, or watch the video embedded above.

This panel came in response to a pledge by the biggest five operators in the UK, and members of the Betting and Gaming Council, to provide £100m worth of funding to GambleAware for treatment services.

Various avenues of research, education and treatment were touched upon by the Young Gamers & Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) sponsored panel, with a need to improve stigma, heighten education and signposting, the responsibility assumed by operators, the necessity of correctly utilising lived experience and delivering anonymised methods all dissected, as the group looked at what’s the best way to spend the money?

Taking part in the discussion were Paul Buck, CEO of Epic Risk Management, Minal Jain, co-founder of RecoverMe, and Martin Lycka, director of regulatory affairs at GVC Holdings. It was moderated by Daniel Bliss, head of external affairs at YGAM.

“From my perspective technology is very much embedded in our society, I think we are very reliant on it at the moment and I think going forward that’s going to be a definite threat,” explained Jain.

“So, how we’re actually looking at incorporating technology into how we address the landscape for treatment provision is very important in my eyes. I think that we do it for a lot of other mental health conditions very well.

“I think going forward what we really need to be investing in is solutions that already work but also 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.”

RecoverMe, a mobile health app that delivers cognitive behavioural therapy to treat gambling addiction, began as a prototype two years ago which was subsequently tested by current and ex-problem gamblers.

The embrace of digital methods was also pinpointed as being a key development by Lycka, who discussed the “massive advantage” of having an accessible app on mobile phones, particularly with the anonymised potential of the technology.

He added: “I reckon that embracing technology, having apps, having phonelines etc, 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.

“This 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 bit further.” 

After all panelists agreed that a balanced approach is necessary when it comes to the allocation of funds moving forward, Buck continued on the technological theme with his own unique insight.

“I think it’s a really good question, because the world is changing. The gambling word is changing but in general the world is changing,” he said.

“I obviously went through treatment myself seven or eight years ago after a pretty serious pathological gambling disorder, and different things worked for different parts of my recovery, and I think the thing to remember with this is that it is not a one size fits all addiction.

“There isn’t a magic set of pills you can take around on your education programmes with you and give everybody one and say ‘if you have a gambling addiction, or somebody suffers it, give them this pill and they’ll be fine,’ because different people have different triggers and different people have different reasons why they gambled in the first place. And different people will need different things to be able to recover and to have a positive life going forwards. 

“So for me I think it’s just a real increase in investment in treatment across the board, there’s some fantastic treatment facilities out there at the moment such as Gordon Moody, Dr Henrietta Bowden Jones and Dr Matthew Gaskell’s clinics which are expanding and bringing the NHS into the arena. 

“But 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. 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.”

Buck concluded: “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.”

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