Marc Etches – GambleAware – Working towards the prevention of gambling related harm

Two weeks ago, GambleAware published its new five-year strategy, expressing an aim to treble the number of people who receive treatment each year for gambling related harm.

Marc Etches, Gambling related harmThe charity, formerly known as the Responsible Gambling Trust, has reinforced its commitment to helping those suffering with the problem, of which there are believed to be around 250,000 in the UK, by funding research, education and treatment services.

We caught up with Marc Etches, CEO at GambleAware, to find out more about the new five-year strategy, the costs involved with treating ‘top tier’ problem gamblers, and the lessons learned from last summer’s Gamble Aware week.

SBC: How does your new strategy impact those suffering from gambling related harm?

ME: GambleAware’s top priority has and always been to provide help and support for those who suffer from gambling related harm. The new strategy seeks to reiterate that and expand on certain areas, primarily through the promotion of the website, as a means of working towards prevention of gambling related harm.

We want to make sure that people know about GambleAware, and that if they need help there is somewhere they can go for free support. Through the publication of the strategy, we hope to make more people aware of and the help available to them.

SBC: You stated your ambition to raise £10 million a year from those who profit from the gambling industry; do you believe this is achievable?

ME: The latest figures from the Gambling Commission show gross profits of £13.6 billion last year. We ask operators to give us just 0.1% of that, which would already amount to some £11 million after adjusting for National Lottery’s existing investment in good causes.

When you add to that our ambition to secure additional funding from other organisations which profit from gambling, such as commercial broadcasters and professional sports teams, we are confident we will achieve this sum.

SBC: The number of problem gamblers in the UK is estimated to be around 250,000, with a further 470,000 at moderate risk; how are you able to estimate this information accurately?

ME: We rely on Gambling Commission figures, which are based on regular health surveys in England and Scotland, and a recent survey on gambling participation and problem gambling in Wales. However, we are conscious that the sample size limits the accuracy of these estimates, and that the different methods used to gather the data may affect the ability to compare these figures from year to year.

Whether the figure is higher or lower than the 250,000 stated, we know there is a significant number of people who may need help and support to address their gambling problem, and many more who may be affected by someone else’s gambling and its consequences.

GambleAware-funded treatment providers currently see just 3% of problem gamblers, so have set ourselves a goal to triple that, which will bring us close to the number which international studies suggest might seek help with their gambling problems.

SBC: You outlined the services you expect to commission as part of the new five-year strategy; what are the costs involved for a tier four ‘problem gambler’?

ME: We’re committed to getting everyone who seeks help from GambleAware-funded treatment services to the right level of intensity of treatment. For many, this may be a simple, brief intervention, or a longer period of counselling; others may have other mental health issues which require more complex care from clinical psychologists or psychiatrists; and for some, residential treatment is the most effective approach.

While residential care is necessarily more expensive than brief intervention, we understand that for some people an extended period of treatment away from their usual environment is necessary for recovery. We are developing a common screening tool and care pathways in collaboration with all GambleAware-funded treatment providers, so that wherever it is across this network that someone needing our help first gets in touch, we get them to the most appropriate treatment option for them.

SBC: Finally, how successful was ‘Gamble Aware week’ in the summer, and did you use information learned from this to guide parts of your new strategy?

ME: Gamble Aware week was an initiative of the Association of British Bookmakers, which we were pleased to support. Next year, we hope that it will expand to involve all sectors of the industry, and we are discussing this with the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling. The ABB shared the results of their efforts with us, and we will certainly want to learn any lessons which their experience offers.

We’ve been working with operators who are members of all five of the trade associations which form IGRG on several industry wide initiatives to share and develop best practice around messaging and staff training, so we already have a strong foundation of industry-wide cooperation to deliver social responsibility on which to base Gamble Aware Week 2017.

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