Photo of Brigid Simmonds

Brigid Simmonds

Despite the pandemic, we have ensured that Safer Gambling Week 2020 has been a huge success

I believe Safer Gambling Week has been a great success, despite the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in.

With betting shops and casinos in England and parts of Scotland closed, it has made getting the important messages across harder than would otherwise been the case – but we’ve managed to do it in other ways.

Whether it was football stadiums running safer gambling messages around the pitch during matches, the sponsor’s name removed on the football shirt and replaced by safer gambling, or Ascot Racecourse changing the name of one of their races to the ‘Safer Gambling Week Novices’ Steeple Chase’, the message has gone far and wide.

In previous years, for instance, we would see our betting shop members removing their usual window posters and displaying ones about safer gambling. While that hasn’t been possible in many locations, Safer Gambling Week has still been highlighting work that goes on all year round to raise awareness of tools available to control gambling, or tackle problem gambling and making sure that those who need help are given the assistance they need.

On the BGC’s very first day a year ago, we launched 22 safer gambling commitments, and we have been working tirelessly with our members ever since to ensure they are met.

From encouraging deposit limits to reducing the number of betting ads seen by children and introducing tough new rules on VIP schemes, the BGC has been determined to drive change.

We have also responded to the pandemic by introducing a 10 point Covid action plan, provided £10m of funding to YGAM and GamCare to deliver a national education programme for 11 to 19-year-olds, and an extra £100m to be spent on research, education and treatment of problem gambling.

And while we still have lots more still to do, this week has shown how these measures are really making a difference.

Over 30 million people in Britain enjoy a flutter every year, and the vast majority of them do so safely and enjoyably.

But we are not complacent. While the rate of problem gambling has remained constant in recent years, one problem gambler is one too many. And that is why Safer Gambling Week is so important.

I mentioned earlier some of the inventive ways in which we have managed to get the message out there over the past seven days. We have also seen Fulham FC replacing their usual shirt logos with safer gambling messages, while QPR and Nottingham Forest advertised YGAM on their strips. Prominence was also given to promoting the safer gambling message in national newspapers, while digital advertising boards at railway stations in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham have all displayed the distinctive Safer Gambling Week messages.

It’s crucial to bring people’s attention to the information, advice and support that is available 24/7, 365 days of the year. There are some fantastic support networks and resources available, some created by people with lived experience, to help better understand the risks.

That is what matters as this week draws to a close. Are the measures in place now better than they were this time last year? And will they be even better 12 months from now? That’s why resting on our laurels is not good enough, and why Safer Gambling Week is such a vital initiative whose message needs to continue.

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