Responsible gambling plan is an admittance of RGT failure, says anti-FOBT campaigner

By David Cook
A consultant for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) has accused the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) of admitting to failure in research carried out by the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) on the effects of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), in light of the publication of a new responsible gambling strategy.

The National Responsible Gambling Strategy was published by the RGSB on Monday, outlining 12 priority actions, including better understanding of the effectiveness of education on gambling-related harm, improving methods of identifying harmful gambling and calling for more effort to be made to liaise with gamblers.

B2 gaming machines, another term to describe FOBTs, have been left out of the strategy, as the RGSB said it will address the issue separately.

Adrian Parkinson of CFG, which actively campaigns for heavier regulation of FOBTs, told Gambling Insider that the shortcomings of previous research has led to the new strategy, which will cover the three-year period from 2016 to 2019 and replaces the old strategy that had run since 2013.

The RGT is referred to by the RGSB as an independent charity, although it is part-funded by bookmakers.

Parkinson said: “The RGSB failed to provide adequate oversight of the Responsible Gambling Trust when research into FOBTs was commissioned in 2013 and the priority actions are to a large extent trying to close the stable door after the FOBT research has bolted.

“The RGSB appears to admit the failure of that research with their latest proposal related to product characteristics and environment, for which they plan to convene a meeting of relevant stakeholders to discuss the “precise research questions which such a programme could most effectively address”.

The RGSB was set up in 2008 to advise the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

Parkinson also does not foresee announcements being made by the RGSB on FOBTs in the near future.

“Given the current waiting game with the government as to when or even if a triennial review will take place this year, we could be waiting a long time for the latest RGSB opinion on FOBTs,” he said.

“The RGT research has been completed, which Neil Goulden [RGT chairman] claimed would ‘put an end to the myths’ around FOBTs.

“Where do we go from here and why does the RGSB have to wait any longer to pin its colours to the mast on FOBTs? Are they waiting for the government to indicate which direction they are going in or are they still relying on advice from the RGT, from which Neil Goulden has been actively lobbying to protect FOBTs?

“We do not want to stop the advancement of understanding and treatment for problematic gambling, but the structure, funding, management and history of the RGT does not bode well for seeing positive outcomes from this three-year strategy.”

Reacting to the publishing of the strategy, Goulden said in a statement: “The Responsible Gambling Trust shares the priorities laid out in the new RGSB strategy. In particular, RGT’s focus is on the development of more effective harm minimisation for those whose gambling becomes problematic. We also believe that prevention is better than having to help individuals, families and society deal with the consequences of problem or dependent gambling.”

A report published by UKGC in February showed that a total of 0.5% of respondents to a survey, conducted via screen scoring, were problem gamblers, which virtually flat-lined with the previous two years.

UKGC and the RGT were both presented with Parkinson’s comments, but did not give a response.

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