Modelled on the success of the Drink Aware app, the Gamblers Consumer Forum will propose that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Gambling Commission commission a mobile app that will help those suffering from gambling harm. We’ve called this app and campaign Bettor Help, both to give bettors the agency to seek the help they may need, but also as a recognition that the current Government proposals will fail the very people they purport to protect.
It is our belief, and the clinicians and addiction centres we are working with, that the only solution to addiction is clinical treatment in an addiction recovery centre. Therefore, the only help both the Government and the regulator can provide is by directing those who are identified as gambling addicts towards that treatment. This approach is nothing new, niche, or controversial – indeed, this is how all other addictions are treated.
There is no evidence that affordability checks will work, nor is there any evidence that there is a correlation between the rate of addiction and high losses, save the sensational stories we hear in the mainstream media that would imply this was the case. We do, however, recognise the Government has made a commitment to helping those afflicted with gambling harm, and is unlikely to simply abandon a policy they have spent years developing with nothing to replace it.
The Gamblers Consumer Forum will, instead of simply objecting to damaging and ineffective proposals, present an alternative solution that will both 1) allow the Government to achieve its aim of helping those suffering as a result of their gambling, and 2) prevent healthy gamblers from being ensnared in regulation that will seek to treat them for an addiction they do not have.
We are delighted to say the most important feature of our app was complied with the help of Dr Robert Lefever, a world leading specialist and clinician of addiction, having dedicated his life to understanding addiction, treating over 5,000 patients in the process.
Our app – Bettor Help – will contain the following functions:
– 10 clinical screening questions written by Dr Lefever
– An article written by a recovering addict to discuss their own path through treatment
– An article written by a gambling addiction centre about how broach the subject of a gambling addiction with friends and family
– An area to monitor bets and money spent, allowing individuals to take control of their own money
– A template email to send to an operator asking for a break
– Act as a means of identification for a potential ‘vulnerable person’ in relation to the Government’s proposed advertising algorithms
– A postcode finder that will point users to their nearest addiction clinic
– Facts and warnings about the dangers of the black market
How this will replace affordability checks:
Bookmakers will be provided with a list of more robust harm markers (complied with the help of clinicians and addiction recovery centres), which are universally graded for severity. This process will be what the GCF have called ‘clinical indicator screening’. These new harm indicators could contain markers for losses, but, unlike affordability checks, they will not exist in isolation but along with other indicators. Harm markers should be written with an appreciation for the fact addiction and harm is not merely an exaggeration of normal behaviours, like spending too much – it has its own unique characteristics.
When a customer triggers above a certain score for these harm markers, they are sent a link to the app, which will contain a mechanism that will allow the operator to know the app has been downloaded. The app will, of course, be readily available to any individual, with or without customer interaction with their bookmaker.
There is no perfect solution or overnight cure when it comes to addiction, but we have to accept the one simple truth: addiction is a clinical condition that requires clinical treatment. We cannot compel people to seek that treatment, nor can the Government, the Gambling Commission, or loved ones – the best thing we can do is to make them aware that the help is available and provide resources that might allow them to acknowledge the need for that help.
We also hope this app will educate the wider public in better understanding addiction, and what those critical clinical symptoms are, as outlined in Dr Lefever’s screening questions. At present, the definition of addiction has been colloquialised to mean ‘really, really liking something’, and this has removed from the conversation a deep knowledge and understanding of this complex and cognitive condition. If there is one thing addicts desperately need, it’s our understanding, not our regulation.