Safer Gambling Training (a programme created by charities YGAM and Betknowmore UK) kick starts its series of features for SBC examining the critical discipline of improving education for all industry stakeholders.
Ben Davies, Head of Safer Gambling Partnerships at Betknowmore UK, explains why learning from lived experience can fundamentally change betting’s algorithmic approach to engaging in the deep nuances of tackling gambling disorders…
Hearing somebody share their experience, in their own words and voice, is universally powerful. It’s not scripted or designed to elicit a particular emotion; it’s immediate, captivating, and capable of generating real insight and empathy. It captures a moment of human connection.
The role of lived experience is increasingly recognised within the gambling industry, and it now underpins the Gambling Commission’s National Strategy. Its value is prominently highlighted as the third point in the BGC’s ‘best practice’ principles, and there is an expectation that lived experience will become a more familiar term in the UK’s regulatory framework in the future.
Understanding the lived experience of customers in this space also enables operators to stay ahead of the curve in reducing future harms, enabling proactive measures to be taken long before they become legal requirements.
1. Hearing Lived Experience Builds Empathy Within Your Team
Listening to customers share their lived experience allows you to connect with their reality. These conversations enable you to learn more about their background and allows your teams to better empathise with their story, appreciate the impact gambling might have had on them, and perhaps learn from some of their experiences.
Not only will this increase the knowledge of your team around identifying a customer’s potential journey of harm, but it is also likely to improve customer service as well – enabling better relations through shared understanding and appreciation that every gambler has a story to tell.
2. Lived Experience Allows You to Understand the Impact on the Community
When a customer who is experiencing gambling-related harm leaves a gambling establishment, the problems they experienced don’t vanish – they follow them as they walk out the door. These problems might lead to mental health issues, relationship breakdown, job losses, and in extreme cases even homelessness.
Each person’s life will have unique features which can amplify gambling harms. Two people who both lose £30 on a bet might look on the surface like they’re affected the same way, but one of those individuals might now be scared to return home and admit to their partner that they’ve lost money which was going to be spent on groceries.
Hearing lived experience allows you to appreciate that your customer isn’t the only one being affected by their experiences and harm – other people in their life and in the community are also going to be affected as a result.
3. It Develops Confidence Amongst Your Team to Have Conversations About Difficult Topics
Currently, a member of your team might have knowledge or confidence barriers when it comes to having conversations about gambling-related harms. They might be worried about saying the wrong thing, or causing upset, or perhaps being overwhelmed by the potential intensity of the topic.
Just listening to somebody tell their story of gambling in a personal and relatable way can reduce the stigma we sometimes feel when talking about difficult topics. This active listening increases the confidence of your team to have these conversations and feel empowered to ask questions which might otherwise feel taboo or inappropriate.
These conversations may also highlight situations from the customers’ past when a similar conversation or interaction may have provided strong benefit to them, and potentially prevented them from making an unfortunate decision. This further makes the case to your team that talking about these issues can be tremendously beneficial for reducing customer harm.
4. It Allows You to Understand the Journey of a Person Experiencing Gambling Harms
Hearing stories of lived experience helps you and your team to identify people in different stages of their gambling journey. Sometimes this journey is described in three phases – the ‘winning’ phase, the ‘losing’ phase, and the ‘desperation’ phase. Each phase carries its own unique harms – even when a person is winning, those wins could potentially shape a customer’s relationship with gambling in a negative way.
An awareness of this can help your team to better contextualise problematic or harmful behaviour which might be exhibited by a customer. This also means that interactions and interventions with that customer can be more effective, as the team become more aware of potential factors in that customer’s life which have led them to their current situation.
This can also lead to earlier interventions, as the team might be more likely to spot the warning signs of harm (such as increased social withdrawal from a customer) before they fully manifest and cause greater damage.
5. It Promotes a Positive Sense of Employee Welfare and Satisfaction
It’s likely that many customer-facing employees have seen customers in difficult or disheartening situations, which can affect the mental health and resilience of that employee. After all, nobody wants to see people in pain and not feel like you’re able to help.
By hearing lived experience from customers, employees become more empowered to understand and intervene in circumstances where they can see harm starting to develop in a customer. They are equipped with the ‘tools’ to make a more positive difference and reduce negative situations from escalating into more damaging ones.
This has a strong benefit to job satisfaction. By knowing that they can better spot and positively intervene in a customer’s gambling journey, employees will feel like they have more control to create a working environment which is less susceptible harming its customers.
There is a strong case for including lived experience in your safer gambling training. It can have a positive effect on the mental health of your employees, build their confidence, and make them feel better empowered to make positive interventions.
By spotting the early signs of harm, your team are better able to keep your customers safe – and ensure their working environment is knowledgeable, empathetic, and positive.
Safer Gambling Training is a joint project from charities YGAM and BetKnowMore. It works to guide gambling operators to go beyond the ordinary in supporting safer gambling. To learn more, visit www.safergamblingtraining.com