GambleAware Receives £9m Fund From Regulator

The Gambling Commission will channel £9 million towards combating gambling harms during the COVID-19 outbreak. The money, which has been collected by the UK gambling watchdog from operators that have been fined over regulatory failings, will be used by charities that offer treatment and support for those impacted by problem gambling. As has been widely reported, there are deep concerns that the coronavirus crisis could aggravate problem gambling.

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The Gambling Commission’s funding will allow GambleAware to improve community support for those in need during the coronavirus crisis. ©Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

UKGC Raised Funds Through Fines

The gambling regulator’s £9 million sum will go to GambleAware, a commissioning charity that works across the UK. As a grant-making charity, GambleAware commissions services in collaboration with the NHS, as well as other specialist organizations and agencies.

“We welcome the receipt of these regulatory settlements at this uncertain time. Guided by a public health model, GambleAware commissions prevention and treatment services across England, Scotland and Wales in partnership with expert organizations and agencies, including the NHS. These funds will enable us to provide greater security around the funding of the National Gambling Treatment Service, and help keep people safe from gambling harms.”Marc Etches, CEO, GambleAware

GambleAware’s services are designed to prevent and treat gambling harms. It also commissions research to improve knowledge and inform its practice. While GambleAware works independently, it also has an agreement with the Gambling Commission to deliver its National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

The Gambling Commission’s chairman, William Moyes, explained why GambleAware would be the recipient of the £9 million sum. “In the current climate, and with the potential risks to British consumers in mind, we have fast-tracked this settlement-driven funding to GambleAware so their work to prevent gambling harms and award grants can continue seamlessly.”

GambleAware will be able to utilize the £9 million donation together with its partners to make sure that the treatment and support it offers can continue through the coronavirus outbreak. These services are facing increased pressure at the moment, as social isolation has increased risk levels for those who are vulnerable to problem gambling.

“In addition to a tough and flexible regulatory system, it’s vital that organizations such as GambleAware and their partners can continue the great work they do, especially at times when there is an elevated risk of gambling harm with people staying at home due to social distancing measures.”William Moyes, Chairman, Gambling Commission

The Gambling Commission has raised the money from regulatory settlements with operators that have failed to meet set standards. Problem areas include social responsibility, money laundering failings and customer interaction.

The money will strengthen essential services and help them to cope with increased demand. It will also aid organizations to reshape the way services are offered to fit in with social distancing measures, such as moving more services online.

Figures show that overall gambling participation is down at the moment. This is due to the closure of venues, such as casinos, bookies and racecourses, during the lockdown. On top of this, sports cancellations have left wagering odds for online bookmakers to offer far and few between.

However, as the gambling industry adjusts its business model to cope with uncertain times, there has been an increase in the use of online casinos. Web-based gambling products such as slots, poker and virtual sports all seem to be up, as bettors seek alternative ways to gamble.

While it may not be a surprising strategy for gambling firms to push their online products during the lockdown, for some it is a cause for concern. Campaigners have warned that increased advertising could draw those who have suffered from gambling problems back into betting.

The Betting and Gaming Council has lead gambling firms to take precautionary measures to avoid this. Earlier this month it announced that its members would withdraw all gambling advertising from TV and radio in the UK until the end of the lockdown. Companies are in the meantime allowed to continue targeted advertising online.

This year has seen some of the toughest action yet from the Gambling Commission, as it seeks to wipe out unfair industry practices. Since January of this year, it has cost the industry £27 million in penalty packages. Firms have been penalized after investigations revealed systemic failings in terms of money-laundering, VIP practices and social responsibility.

“Through the use of regulatory action to prevent harm, such as the ban of credit for gambling, alongside the use of regulatory settlements to support treatment services, the Commission is taking wide-ranging action to address the additional risk of harm that may come from Covid-19.”

In March, Betway found itself on the receiving end of a record-breaking fine worth £11.6 million. Then in April, Caesars smashed that record further when it was ordered to pay £13 million. These investigations have also led to the suspension of four online operators.

National Lottery Pledges £600m

The National Lottery has also announced that it will be supporting charities through the lockdown with a new £600 million impact fund. Camelot, which runs the National Lottery, will direct the donation through its network of stakeholders to benefit charities that have been hardest hit by the virus outbreak.

A broad range of charities, working in areas such as the arts, education and community, are set to benefit from the initiative. Organizations that offer support for those suffering from loneliness, an issue that has affected many during social isolation, will also receive help.

“The National Lottery has always supported projects that help people and communities across the UK thrive. And now, the funds available are switching focus to support communities, arts, heritage, sport, education and the environment to mitigate the unprecedented pressure they are coming under as the country rallies to overcome Covid-19.”Dawn Austwick, Chair, The National Lottery Forum

£300 million of the overall fund will go towards the National Lottery’s Community Fund. This will provide a boost for charities working in the community sector over the next six months. UK Heritage will also be granted £50 million, which aims to support ongoing projects for another four months.

Sport England will get a support package worth £157, as it works to keep the nation fit and active during the lockdown. £144 million has been secured by the Arts Council, which will allow community projects to move forward. Other regional organizations that have also been earmarked for funding are Arts Northern Ireland, Creative Scotland and Sports Wales.

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has praised the initiative. The government has also announced that it will support UK charities with a £750 million package.

“In these uncertain times, lottery funding takes on an even greater significance, as we come together to deliver a national effort. So I am delighted that the National Lottery is channeling its support to help those most in need across these sectors.”

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