There’s not much that Better Change Engagement Director Rob Mabbett doesn’t know about the gambling industry. Having previously worked for BETFRED where he was named Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year in 2016 he subsequently became Director of External Engagement at Gordon Moody, the UK’s leading treatment provider and from there on to Better Change which he joined in May 2023. With positive play at the core of its mission Better Change was one of ten organisations that had a presence on the bacta Safer Gambling Hub at EAG. Rob reflects on the success of the Hub and the co-located Safer Gambling Seminar which he says has cemented EAG’s place as “one of the standout events in the calendar.”
How important is it to have a Safer Gambling Hub dedicated to the land-based sector?
The land based sector makes up a huge part of the gambling industry both in the UK and around the world so it is of huge importance that there is a focus on safer gambling. A lot of the consultations around new safer gambling measures have been aimed at the online market such as affordability checks and stake limits but we need to ensure that we are catering for the needs of our consumers offline.
Interacting with customers is different offline, it is often in person and it takes a different skill set compared to online communications. The same can be said for risk management, customer identification and self-exclusion so it is fantastic to see the team at EAG and bacta championing safer gambling at their flagship event. On behalf of the team at Better Change I would like to extend our gratitude to the organisers for inviting us to exhibit in the bacta Safer Gambling Hub.
How significant was it to have Paul Bellringer OBE open the Safer Gambling Hub – what did it say about the importance of the feature?
For over 30 years Paul Bellringer OBE has been a prominent figure in safer gambling and a huge influence on many of the organisations that were present at this year’s bacta Safer Gambling Hub including GamCare which he founded in 1997 so it was wonderful to have him in attendance. Paul’s ethos around safer gambling is one of collaboration between all parties to make gambling safer this includes research, prevention and treatment organisations as well as political bodies, regulators, the gambling operators, game designers and manufacturers as well as the general public. As someone who shares this ethos I felt it was most fitting to have Paul open the safer gambling hub.
What were the topics of conversation on the Hub – were people concerned about the Statutory Levy?
There was undoubtedly concern amongst the third sector organisations exhibiting at EAG and the bacta members regarding the proposed statutory levy. Referring to Paul Bellringer’s speech at the opening of the event as well as the unanimous opinion of the panel in the safer gambling seminar, safer gambling has moved on a great deal in the past decade and so much more is done to protect consumers of gambling from harm than there ever has been before.
Much of this has come from a significant increase in voluntary contributions from operators which have funded a raft of safer gambling initiatives aimed at research, education and treatment of gambling harm. All of this set against a backdrop of national statistics which do not show gambling harm to be on the rise.
Despite these achievements the proposal of a mandatory levy has created an air of great uncertainty. For the third sector the prospect of funding being restricted is a very real one depending on who holds the levy purse strings, if these organisations are not able to work with the gambling industry or accept donations it will leave a financial hole to fill and undoubtedly stifle the innovation that has brought us peer support programmes, training courses, support services for women and so much more in recent years.
The safer gambling sector has seen the recent departure of a number of senior people as a result of this uncertainty and to quote Ian Semel founder of Breakeven who spoke at the safer gambling seminar “it would be a shame if we were to look back at this time as the golden age of safer gambling” referring to the fact that the levy could signal an end to the collaborative relationship with the industry.
Concern was felt amongst Bacta members too as a levy if not set correctly could represent an unsustainable cost for a number of organisations, it could be viewed as punitive which would remove the motivation for the industry to engage with safer gambling in the same way that had previously been enjoyed and indeed seen as something operators could be proud of when they saw the impact of their voluntary contributions, a point made in the safer gambling seminar by Tony Boulton of Merkur.
I see the logic in ensuring everyone makes a contribution, but we have to make good use of that funding, one of the big questions in the debate is why does RET need more money?
How important was it to have a Safer Gambling seminar running alongside the Hub – did the two dovetail?
We are aware that the Safer Gambling Hub may not be the biggest draw at EAG and that is something that the exhibitors within it need to take ownership of.
It was a fantastic commitment to safer gambling from the organisers to give up valuable exhibition floor space to provide the hub which included branded stands for all the participants, but as the old adage goes “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink!”
Therefore, it was a fantastic opportunity for all involved that the hub was supported by a safer gambling seminar. From our perspective at Better Change, safer gambling is good for business, but it is only good if it engages with the consumer and re-enforces good practice and good behaviours as opposed to being restrictive and only coming into effect as a reaction to an issue.
The seminar provided the perfect platform for us to engage with delegates and examine how our services can support the industry in all aspects of customer care but also for the industry to challenge back on the impact and the outcomes of the services on offer.
The engagement from the seminar and the quality of delegates across the exhibition made it a very worthwhile three days cementing its place as one of the standout events in our calendar. We definitely got the year off to a great start!