Helen Rhodes heads up the Gambling Commission’s safer gambling team,leading the Commission’s policy and work connected with protection of children and those in vulnerable circumstances. During her time at the Commission, she has worked across a wide range of policy and implementation areas, most recently leading the development of the Commission’s new three-year strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms. Initially gaining experience of the private sector in human resources, she spent most of her career in the public sector. This began with joining the civil service fast stream, covering a variety of public policy roles.
In April we launched the new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, a three-year strategy which will drive and coordinate work to bring a lasting impact on reducing gambling harms.
It’s the first time health bodies, charities, regulators and businesses have come together in partnership to effectively tackle the issue, with a focus on Prevention and Education, and Treatment and Support.
Prevention and Education involves moving towards a clear public health prevention plan with the right mix of interventions. Treatment and Support means delivering national treatment and support options that meet the needs of users.
But what does the launch of the new strategy mean for the arcade and machines sector specifically?
It may seem as some of the actions of the strategy – such as research – sit with other people, and are very distant from day-to-day business. Often the challenge has been that the actions only apply to bigger businesses. But machine businesses are as key to successful delivery of the strategy as research centres, or public health bodies – whether that is large machine manufacturers or a small arcade.
Just to take some of the many ways in which this sector can play its part:
- Machine manufacturers and suppliers can use game design to prevent harm. This is about eliminating design elements that raise the risks for consumers and applying an approach that builds safer gambling tools and messaging into those games in the most effective way. It may also involve coming together to collaborate across competitors for the benefit of consumers.
- Arcade operators can reaffirm their commitment to uphold the law to ensure children and young people do not access gambling, and they can take particular care to ensure that the products that are available to children and young people are offered responsibly. For individual businesses it might mean greater buy-in to the test-purchasing process, making underage access to 18+ premises/products more difficult, or renewed efforts for staff training.
- Everyone can adopt a culture of piloting and trialling new initiatives and evaluating their success – whether that is trying out new ways of conducting staff training, or taking part in wider research to test new methods of giving safer gambling messages across the sector.
- Empowering staff with tools, knowledge and training to identify customers who may need help or support, to carry out effective customer interactions, to implement effective self exclusion processes and to share best practice on what works.
- Consider the ways in which machine data can be used to inform policy – we are testing the use of collating online industry data via the patterns of play project with online operators, and we want to identify partners to work with us on a future phase of this work for machine data.
It may also appear that these things bring challenges and costs at a time when the economic outlook is uncertain. But doing so is necessary to maintain a sustainable sector in the face of real concerns about harm for the most vulnerable.
The consultation on the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms that we conducted earlier in the year demonstrated comprehensive buy-in from all parts of the industry, but what the Strategy requires is for businesses to commit to be a part of a coordinated effort to reduce gambling harms.
In return, we have made commitments to gambling businesses, including the arcade sector. We will provide guidance of the priorities for action under the strategy, and we will help facilitate the sharing of best practice and lessons learned. We will take account of the different approaches that are suitable for big, medium and small businesses.
SO WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
We will soon be publishing our collective implementation plan for the strategy. This will enable us to embed the actions we all need to take on Prevention and Education, and Treatment and Support.
We are calling on the arcade industry to think about the small steps they can take, which will ultimately result in significant action to reduce gambling harms.
The National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms has a website, which is your opportunity to stay informed about latest developments in the strategy, and to get in touch with us. Please visit www.reducinggamblingharms.org.