Safer Gambling Week 2022 was the most successful ever

By any impartial assessment, last year’s Safer Gambling Week, was the most successful ever. It brought together an entire industry to encourage the millions of us who enjoy a wager to start talking about the advice, support and most importantly, the tools available to bet safely and responsibly.

Its reach and impact were truly remarkable. During a frenetic week of activity last October Safer Gambling Week generated nearly 30 million impressions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, a huge 21 per cent increase on 2021, with a push to get the nation talking about safer gambling.

And it worked. During that month around 200,000 accounts had deposit limits set, an increase of 12.5 per cent compared to the same month the year previous. Meanwhile, 61 per cent of players setting a deposit limit around Safer Gambling Week, did so for the first time ever.

It did not stop there. The number of players actively using reality checks - on-screen alerts which help customers keep track of how long they have been playing - rose by an astonishing 300 per cent.

I for one was not surprised, because of the sheer breadth and depth of Safer Gambling Week. The annual cross-sector initiative brought together both the UK and Irish regulated betting and gaming industries – including bookmakers, amusement arcades, bingo clubs, casinos and online gaming operators – plus charities and stakeholders. You could not go anywhere without seeing something encouraging you to pause, think about your betting and gaming and ensure you really did take time to think.

It enjoyed the backing of then Gambling Minister Damian Collins MP, politicians on both sides of the House of Commons and the independent regulator the Gambling Commission. High profile sporting names also gave the campaign their vocal backing, including former football manager Harry Redknapp and ex-Celtic striker John Hartson.

So it was no surprise that the Gambling Commission’s latest data – which covered the period of Safer Gambling Week – showed that rates of problem gambling among UK adults had fallen from 0.3 per cent last year, to 0.2 per cent.

That is a very small minority indeed when you consider 22.5m UK adults enjoy a bet each month, whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, having a game of bingo, visiting a casino, playing online or having a wager on football, horseracing and other sports.

And the industry which supports this incredibly popular leisure activity is a powerhouse for the UK economy. Combined, it contributes £7.1bn for UK Plc, generates £4.2bn in taxes and supports 110,000 jobs. And it was amazing to see so many of that vital workforce, employed in casinos, bookmakers, bingo halls and online, getting behind this hugely successful campaign.

This genuinely united front was achieved because safer gambling is a pillar of the regulated betting and gaming industry, not just for one week, but all year round. That stands in stark contrast to the growing, unsafe unregulated gambling black market, which is gaining ground every day.

We know from a host of studies the numbers gambling there has doubled in recent years, and the amounts being bet are in the billions. These sites do nothing to support the economy, sports, or jobs. And they do absolutely nothing to support safer gambling – in fact – recent reports suggest they actually target problem gamblers.

We have a new ministerial team at DCMS, and renewed hope of a Gambling White Paper published within weeks. The team finalising that White Paper should reflect on Safer Gambling Week and what the regulated betting industry contributes, not just to the economy, but to encouraging customers to use the suite of safer gaming tools available and promoted by our members.

The facts speak for themselves, Safer Gambling Week was a runaway success, which is why the only criticism levelled at this laudable venture, was from anti-gambling prohibitionists, who are anything but impartial. They will never accept industry efforts to drive up safer gambling because they are fundamentally opposed to the existence of the industry itself.

Ministers would do well to see their criticisms in context, it is staggering anyone would have a problem with Safer Gambling Week, much less campaigners for safer gambling. We are proud of last year’s campaign – and look forward to this year’s. Our members will support it as always, it’s time our detractors dropped their prejudice, and support it too.

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