UK White Paper 'Missed A Trick' By Not Addressing Next Generation

September 18, 2023
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The Gambling Act review white paper “missed a trick” by not addressing new and emerging forms of gambling popular with young people and women, according to Christina Thakor-Rankin, the co-founder of the All-in Diversity Project.
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The Gambling Act review white paper “missed a trick” by not addressing new and emerging forms of gambling popular with young people and women, according to Christina Thakor-Rankin, the co-founder of the All-in Diversity Project.

Speaking on a panel at the KnowNow conference in London last Wednesday (September 13), Thakor-Rankin said that the white paper “doesn't explore the next generation of customers”.

“Esports is massive. The next generation grew up with the concept of loot boxes. There are gambling-style games on things such as Snapchat. Educating people [on gambling] must start much earlier,” Thakor-Rankin said.

The popularity of the latest FIFA Women's World Cup also raised concerns for Thakor-Rankin, who stated that “everything we know is about male sports bettors. How are women sports bettors acting?”, adding that she is currently undertaking research into the issue.

The UK white paper addresses loot boxes by stating: “It would be premature to pursue legislative options without first pursuing enhanced industry-led protections, given the potential downsides. However, we will not hesitate to consider such options if we consider it necessary in the future.”

Research, education and treatment (RET) are much more widely covered in the white paper, with more funding expected to be available for it in the future with the introduction of a statutory levy funded by operators; however, details on this have not yet been finalised

"The problem is when the review process started they were 16 but by the time the paper was published they were 18 and gambling. We’re always slightly behind the curve," Thakor-Rankin said.

Another hurdle for the gambling industry to overcome with the next generation of gamblers identified by the panel is a lack of understanding of how certain forms of gambling are played and what risks they pose. 

Liam Smith, the director of customer operations at Rank Group, said: “Our social responsibility is to not just look for harm but also an obligation to minimise harm and encourage positive play to try and educate our customers.”

Smith believes that the level of gambling literacy is low among young adults, which is worrying considering that they “usually also have lower incomes and lower outgoings”, but questioned how operators can help that knowledge gap to better protect players.

He said that Rank already interacts with players regardless of whether or not they are displaying signs of harm, including talking about safer gambling, and has also trained staff to spot signs of harmful gambling in customers.

However, when it comes to operators educating players or young people, they run the risk of being "hammered" by the public, David Richardson, the head of strategic partnerships at Better Change, explained.

Richardson agreed that educating people about gameplay “should be seen as part of safer gambling", but believes the gambling industry would be “slated” if they were seen as encouraging people to gamble in any way.

Richardson believes the way the industry can help when it comes to educating players on risks is to promote what he refers to as “positive play” to the “vast majority of gamblers” but not those “suffering from harm”.

“Perhaps an underrepresented group in the industry is those who gamble for years but still want some responsible gambling messaging,” Richardson said.

He explained that promoting “positive play” is “not a substitute for the help and support of people who can be harmed by gambling”, but “it can play a part in helping the industry's reputation”.

“A big part is improving gambling literacy. If you understand something it's safer to be putting money into it,” Richardson said.

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