Article by Rob Mabbett- Engagement Director at Better Change (Gibraltar) Ltd
Things that split the room at this time of year; Pumpkin Spice, Trick or Treaters, Fireworks, John Lewis, Jona Lewie, Kevin the Carrot, Die Hard (is it really a Christmas movie?), Mariah Carey and of course Safer Gambling Week.
But before you draw the curtains, turn off the lights and pretend it none of this concerns – in particular the annual Safer Gambling event – here are three reasons to remind us all why we should fill our glasses half full and spread a little festive cheer for the gambling industry’s annual awareness campaign. Humbug!
The spirit of SGW Past: It’s all in the name.
I remember the first campaign in 2017, it was launched as Responsible Gambling week and to be honest from where I was sitting (which was behind the counter in a betting shop then), it was not met with the greatest of enthusiasm.
The main retail operators agreed to suspend their external marketing for the week, replacing it with Responsible Gambling week marketing and that was about it. Inside the shops things were pretty much the same as any other day or week. That soon changed though and very quickly marketing was internal too, across the in house tv channels and on the betting machines, with much more of an effort made to engage with customers across the week with focussed activities and events.
The big change for me came in 2020 when the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) started overseeing the campaign and changed the name from Responsible Gambling week to Safer Gambling week. The word ‘responsible’ had come in for some heavy criticism from industry critics, saying that it put all the onus on the consumer, “you must gamble more responsibly”.
The change to ‘safer gambling’ was a positive move, as it appeased both sides recognising that safer gambling is all of our responsibility. It meant that we could get on with the task in hand as opposed to spending the week arguing on Twitter.
This all happened during the 2nd Covid lockdown, so the activities then were focussed exclusively on the online industry, which before 2020 I had little knowledge of, but I remember that year’s campaign as a great success with operators, regulators, industry bodies and the support organisations united in the campaign.
For me the big positive of the name change is the wording, “Safer Gambling” or put another way “Gambling Safer”. This put the focus on the activity of gambling and how we make it safer for those who consume it. It is not “Stop Gambling Week” or “Anti-Gambling Week” it is “Safer Gambling Week” which I believe is less stigmatising and opens the door for narrative and educational work with our colleagues and customers hence the theme “Let’s talk about safer Gambling”.
The spirit of SGW Present: It provides a focus on what’s important.
Ok ok, the Gambling Act review is important, I get that, but it does go on a bit and it has caused a fair amount of disruption to the industry to say the least.
Discussions, consultations and crystal ball gazing around what is going to happen with affordability checks, stake limits, advertising, RET funding and levy’s is all well and good and has dominated events over the last couple of years but what is happening right now? What are we doing online, in betting shops, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and sporting venues to keep our customers engaged and safe?
The truth is we are doing plenty, but it tends to get drowned out by the noise of the Gambling Act review. This special week gives us an opportunity to put our white papers down and focus on the here and now, how are gambling businesses are performing in relation to safer gambling, how robust are the processes, what does the customer experience look like and, most importantly, how we can improve.
The spirit of SGW Future: It engages with customers.
The future sustainability of the gambling industry lies in the ability to keep customers engaged, entertained and, of course, safe. You will hear a lot of people say safer gambling should be a focus for all 52 weeks of the year and they are right, but by having a focussed awareness campaign each year it ensures that safer gambling gets the attention it needs and that industry standards are in-focus and subsequently raised higher.
For customers the enhanced presence of safer gambling messaging both on and offline help reduce the stigma around talking about gambling, especially if it is causing difficulties. Interactions with customers tend to increase during this period thanks to increased focus, and learnings through healthy discussions across the industry inform how we act going forward.
For industry employees understanding is improved through the activities that take place during the week, building confidence and competence thus improving the customer experience.
Finally, the safer gambling campaign is important to the customer as it serves to improve the public perception of the gambling industry.
Whether you think recent criticism of the gambling industry is just or unjust we believe work needs to be done to improve its image for its future sustainability. Campaigns such as safer gambling week provide a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the latest safer gambling initiatives that are on offer.
Between us we want to make sure that safer gambling week attitudes continue throughout the year and that we can continue to raise awareness and drive standards in an industry that is doing its best to provide gambling entertainment safely.
Engagement Director, Better Change