Last month, a quintet of the main trade associations representing the various facets of the UK gambling industry unveiled the creation of the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG).
As well as establishing the best practice on consumer protection across the sector, the IGRG will undertake a "stock-take" of current responsible gambling initiatives and identify where standards can be improved.
The inaugural chairman, Clive Hawkswood, told PokerNews that despite the perception that problem gambling is widespread across the British Isles, the current rate is at a "historic low" — 0.5% of the adult population. However, he admitted that this figure still needs to be reduced and stresses that the industry isn’t resting on its laurels.
"We can’t be complacent," Hawkswood said. "Different operators have different approaches, but we are not aware of any operators ignoring these issues because given the regulated nature of the industry, it’s impossible to ignore it. The [Gambling Commission] wouldn’t stand for it."
The IGRG will also put gambling advertising under the spotlight with a review of the "Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising." The explosion in gambling advertising on UK TV screens has come in for criticism of late from some quarters.
Recent research by communications regulator Ofcom found that in 2012 gambling ads accounted for 4.1% of all TV ad slots — up from 1.7% in 2008. To put it another way, 1.39 million gambling ads were aired in 2012.
"Clearly the [UK] government and some politicians are concerned that advertising is not sufficiently socially responsible," said Hawkswood, who is also CEO of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA). "Or, at a more basic level, there is a gut feeling among some of them that there is just too much of it."
The industry argues that a rise was inevitable following the relaxation of the gambling laws that led to TV gambling adverts first appearing in 2007. "It was always going to go up, but our view is that it’s probably hit a plateau now," Hawkswood explained.
"There’s every chance that it will start coming down next year, if for no other reason than the extra costs associated with the Point of Consumption Tax (expected to come into force in December), which will probably affect the industry’s ability to avoid this level of advertising."
However, Hawkswood was also quick to point out that during the escalation of TV gambling advertising, levels of problem gambling actually fell. "You can’t automatically assume that more advertising leads to more problem gambling."
On the subject of tacking problem gambling, Hawkswood highlighted that a common mistake is to lump addicts together as one “homogenous group” and hope that a one-size-fits-all approach works.
"Problem gamblers are a very disparate group with people moving into it and out of it, and quite often without any treatment they self cure, if you like." He added: "There is no silver bullet, so all we can do is work constructively on research, education, treatment and providing the players with the right tools to manage their gambling behaviors. This will help push gambling problem rates down."
The IGRG comprises of the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), Remote Gambling Association, (RGA),Bingo Association (BA), National Casino Forum (NCF), and British Amusement & Catering Trade Association (BACTA).
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