'Safer Gambling Week' has been dismissed as a cynical stunt by a Christian charity campaigning for change in the industry.
The event, which runs from 13th-19th November, is promoted as a chance to raise awareness about gambling safely, and has its own website advertising a national gambling helpline.
But Christian charity CARE, which campaigns for tougher regulation of the industry, says the idea is a stunt which shifts responsibility onto punters, while pretending that gambling companies have a heart.
Tim Cairns, a gambling policy expert at CARE, is calling for the government to reform gambling, and bring in legislation which treats the betting industry in the same way as as tobacco companies.
He said: “Safer Gambling Week is emblematic of all that is wrong with the gambling industry in the UK. This cynical stunt is less about safety and more about big gambling pretending it has a heart. It doesn’t. Safer Gambling Week shifts the blame for harms associated with gambling to people experiencing addiction – it encourages people to ‘be safer’. The gambling industry would have us believe that gamblers don’t act in a safe and responsible way, so their suffering is on them.
“The reality is that big gambling has spent 20 years making their product more addictive, easier to play, and available 24/7 whilst ignoring pleas from suffering individuals. It is long past time that gambling was treated in the same way as tobacco. Only the government can bring in reform. It’s time for ministers to show that they will no longer listen to heartless big gambling, and instead pay heed to the people suffering because of its actions. It’s time for change."
The government announced gambling reform plans in April this year, after pledging to address the issues in the Conservative Party manifesto ahead of the 2019 election.
Among the changes CARE wants to see are: a 5 per cent levy on gambling companies’ profits to fund help for problem gamblers damaged by their product, an end to gambling advertising and sponsorships in football, affordability checks for vulnerable gamblers, and an end to ‘VIP’ promotions and free bets.