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12th Dec 2022 Joe Williams

GambleAware hosts 10th Annual Conference

GambleAware hosted its 10th Annual Conference on the topic of 'Taking action to tackle gambling harms as a public health issue'

Chief Medical Officers join call for public health approach to gambling harms at GambleAware Annual Conference

GambleAware 10th Annual Conference opens with speech from Professor Chris Whitty

GambleAware’s tenth and biggest Annual Conference took place last week, exploring how to adopt a public health approach to gambling harms, with panel discussions and key note speakers focussing on how to tackle the stigma experienced by those affected.

Over 450 people attended the event, which took place at the Kings Fund in London including researchers, treatment providers, those with Lived Experience of gambling, politicians and public health experts. 

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, started proceedings by powerfully outlining the ‘hit after hit after hit’ of health issues currently experienced by those living in the country’s most deprived areas , and highlighting the importance of prevention of gambling harms and early intervention.  

Professor Whitty went on to outline the three things needed to help tackle gambling harms, including developing the evidence base , prioritising support to  where it is needed most and the protection of children, saying it is ‘totally unacceptable’ that children are  impacted by gambling harms at all.

Sir Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales echoed Professor Whitty, highlighting and reflecting on the importance of building up data - particularly longitudinal data – to understand how people come into & out of gambling harms.

The Minister for Gambling Paul Scully MP told attendees that ‘to tackle gambling harms effectively we must understand the problem and tailor our solutions.’ He went on to say that ‘we need to take both wide-ranging action, and targeted and proportionate action, where and when each is  appropriate’.

He also reiterated the Government’s commitment to ‘carrying out the most thorough review of gambling law since the 2005 Act,’ saying he was ‘aware that delays to the White Paper have been difficult’ and that it would be published  ‘in the coming weeks’ as part of efforts to keep people safe from gambling harm. ‘We want to publish it as soon as we can, but also we need to make sure we get it right.’

Mr Scully praised the work already being done and called for a ‘coherent and robust treatment pathway’ that will ensure that there is ‘no wrong door when it comes to accessing support or treatment for gambling harms’.

Shadow Minister for Gambling Alex Davies-Jones MP highlighted how the delays to the White Paper have limited progress and put those in most need of protection at further risk of experiencing, gambling harm. 

Ms Davies-Jones called for an end to such delays and for swift action to take forward the measures set out in the Gambling White Paper when it’s published. 

Lord Foster of Bath also discussed the policy reforms needed to ensure a public health approach can be taken with campaigner Matt Zarb-Cousin. 

Zoe Osmond, CEO of GambleAware, said: “I’m delighted that many sectors were represented at this year’s Annual Conference. Collaboration is a powerful tool that must be employed if we are to get to grips with harmful gambling in this country. 

“Yesterday’s event was inspiring as well as thought-provoking, and will hopefully be the catalyst for an accelerated evidence-based public health approach to this growing issue.”

“It was also encouraging to hear the Minister reiterate the Government’s commitment to publishing the White Paper soon as part of efforts to keep people safe from gambling harm.

“It was fascinating to hear at first hand from a wide range of stakeholders in one room including Dame Clare Gerada and Joy Allen, to BetkJnowmore's Lisa Walker and Forward Trust CEO Mike Trace – each offering a unique and insightful perspective on how we can work together to use a public health approach to help those that need it most.”