Over a quarter of a century ago Paul Bellringer OBE gained a National Lottery grant that enabled him to morph the ‘UK Forum on Young People and Gambling’ into GamCare. A pioneer in the safer gambling space Paul was recognised for his work with problem gamblers and responsible gambling issues in the 2000 honours list when he was awarded the OBE. It speaks volumes for the status enjoyed by EAG that Paul has agreed to officially open the Bacta Safer Gambling Hub at January’s show. The Hub will feature a total of nine safer gambling organisations including the UK Gambling Commission, in space that has been gifted by bacta as part of its long-standing commitment to social responsibility.
How do you feel to have been invited to officially open the Hub at EAG?
It is an honour for me to open the Hub. Perhaps it reflects that I have a steadfast belief in working with a legitimate and popular leisure industry to make it as safe as possible. It is immensely satisfying that, in the span of my 43-year involvement with the issues, by working alongside the industry I and others have played a part in establishing a safer and more balanced environment in which to gamble.
How important/significant is it that EAG has devoted a prime location of the show floor to Safer Gambling?
In my view this is a significant step forward and is a further demonstration that the gambling industry is serious about safer gambling. Placing the Hub in a prominent position at a prestigious trade event is a tangible indication that safer gambling is becoming integrated into industry policy and practice.
How big a change has there been in the approach/attitude to Safer Gambling since you formed GamCare over 25-years ago?
When I founded GamCare in 1997 there was little thought given by the gambling industry in general, or by the Government of the day, to the need for a strategy to encourage responsible gambling and provide support and treatment for the vulnerable. Quite frankly there was some hostility towards the young charity as it was seen as a threat by some, and also a great deal of lip-service. GamCare pioneered the national cohesive approach to responsible gambling that had previously been lacking and, because from the outset it set out to became a critical friend of the industry, it gained the respect and support of some sector associations – notably BACTA and the ABB (Association of British Bookmakers). Today it is very different; the attitude has significantly improved – brought about by enlightened thinking, regulation and the realisation that a safer gambling approach is good for business.
How can the industry benefit from participating in the EAG Safer Gambling Hub?
It will, hopefully, increase belief at senior management level that ensuring gambling is safe is beneficial to the industry. It should demonstrate that safer gambling is, and should be, a core aspect of their business model. Not only do they have an obligation to comply with statutory regulation but, also, they have a moral responsibility to provide a safe gambling environment. Shaping policy and procedures that encourage customers to accept their personal responsibility to gamble within their means and by signposting and blocking those that cannot, should further reduce the possibility of harm.
Do you think the introduction of a Statutory Levy will change what has become a safer gambling culture into another tax on gambling?
The dilemma of a voluntary or a statutory Levy has been debated since the Budd report. In my mind the voluntary levy has worked reasonably well but it has limitations because it is not an outright obligation. On the other hand, I have little doubt the money raised by a statutory levy will sooner or later be used for other purposes in addition to continuing to fund gambling related research, education and treatment. In direct reference to the question, I do not see embedding a safe gambling culture within the gambling industry in monetary terms as, ultimately, it must be related to treating customers with respect and providing the best environment possible for them to enjoy the activity of gambling without coming to harm.
The 4,000+ operators from sectors including FECs, AGCs, seaside piers, leisure attractions, bingo halls, bars, clubs, and bowling centres expected to attend the 2024 edition of EAG Expo will be able to access the very latest product launches and innovations from over 120 leading brands, keep up with developments impacting social responsibility, celebrate industry excellence at the Bacta Annual Awards, and participate in bacta’s business-centric thinkbite learning programme. Delivering the perfect combination of product, networking and learning, EAG 2024 represents the industry’s ‘go to’ event. For thousands of businesses the year starts at EAG.
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