This page describes some updates to our main overview of gambling harms in Glasgow. That overview remains an important introduction to the subject. What follows details some developments since that was written.
At national level in December 2022 a briefing paper for the Scottish Parliament was published outlining the need for a public health approach to challenging gambling harms. This provides a useful insight into the arguments for such an approach. It also contains an overview of gambling hams in Scotland which complements our own Glasgow-focused overview.
Although the issue of gambling harms is recognised and taken seriously at government level, and this paper suggests some practical strategies for challenging them, we await significant action. This contrasts with the government’s actions on alcohol harms such as minimum unit pricing and consultations about marketing and advertising. To some extent this may be due to waiting for the much-delayed White Paper towards a new Gambling Act. It also reflects to some extent a lack of important devolved powers for Holyrood.
In Glasgow City a multi-agency (whole system) Gambling Related Harms Group continues work to develop and implement a local action plan. This sees address to important themes such as challenging stigma, increasing access to treatment and raising awareness of risks and gambling harms. It is seeking to broaden the community of stakeholders in the work, and to involve ‘cross-cutting’ interchange with relevant statutory and third sectors, and, importantly, the voices of lived experience, recognised marginalised communities, (taking also into account the rise of women’s experiences of gambling harms) – and the underdeveloped recognition of focused attention to the needs of specific populations. Grassroots community groups are anticipated to be part of wider networking and learning which would be informed by and inform wider networks such as at nation al level or international level (e.g. greo). Partners include the charities GamCare, Beacon Counselling Trust and RCA Trust. (In Scotland, RCA provide treatment/support, GamCare does so for Edinburgh and Glasgow). Glasgow and Scotland must continue learning from developments elsewhere, particularly from the substantial achievements of grassroots groups and NHS treatment services south of the border.
The group’s pathfinding work has identified named individuals/organisations to administer agreed topic areas as those mentioned above as the local action plan develops. Along with this the group is considering specifically the creation of a gambling harms network/forum for partners and the third sector to share learning, and to strengthen engagement with people with lived experience of gambling harm.
As far as we know, at yet there are no portals in the public domain through which citizens may engage with the group but doubtless given its aims opportunities will be provided, for example perhaps as a consultation exercise.
We are not aware currently whether the multi-agency group includes on its agenda attention to ‘upstream’ factors in the production of gambling harms (in public health discourse referred to as commercial determinants of health). Certainly, for instance, campaigns against marketing strategies are a fairly common theme among grassroots lived experience groups. Another element frequently demanded by such groups is for complete independence from independence from gambling industry funding for research, education and treatment. (This is sought from the coming White Paper as a 1% statutory levy on gambling profits to be ringfenced for distribution by governments). Glasgow University’s internationally respected Gambling Research Group called, in its response to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s consultation towards the coming White Paper for a complete or at least very significant curtailment of gambling advertising and sponsorship in sport, for instance. Their call is backed by the sort of expert evidence sought by the multi-agency group. Similarly, researchers at Bristol University provide the evidence for such a call.in their response to the DCMS consultation. (Bristol Council has implemented a ban on advertising junk food, alcohol and gambling on council owned property including bus shelters). Greater Manchester Combined Authority have been “(d)elivering a public facing communications campaign – working with lived experience representatives, delivering of a counter-marketing communications campaign “Odds Are: TheyWin” to raise awareness of the risks of gambling moving away from ‘individual responsibility ’narratives prevalent in industry-funded initiatives.” as noted in their response to the DCMS consultation.
As noted above with reference to the Scottish Government’s strategies to reduce alcohol harms, attention to upstream commercial determinants of gambling harms may be an important consideration in reducing harms in a council area. There are small but significant actions that can be taken.
Between November and March there have been several events with which we have been involved. These have involved our screening the film One Last Spin and taking part in discussion afterwards. We enjoyed a screening event at HMP Barlinnie in December and had a great discussion with residents who were very aware of gambling harms from their own experience. At the Women’s Centre Glasgow an event themed around the cost of living was attended by representatives from a variety of organisations. A day conference organised by the Simon Community and Fast Forward included a screening of the film. The Simon Community have a dedicated worker focusing on gambling and homelessness, and they continue to work on gambling harms with Fast Forward. We had a great evening with Greater Govanhill Community Interest Company, showing the film and having great conversation. Greater Govanhill includes in their magazine published in March an eight-page feature on gambling harms.
The above represents a small example of the organisations that may be included in raising awareness of gambling harms: prisons, housing, women’s groups, homelessness, education, general citizen communities. Our own small contribution is part of what we think is an essential element in raising awareness. This is at ground level, and it is a positive sign that other community groups are continuing autonomously to raise awareness both in specific projects and through their network contacts. While ‘higher level’ initiatives, such as from government, city council or Public Health are very important, the grassroots work in citizen communities is equally crucial.
During this period we have made arrangements for events after March. These will be with Sanctuary Housing, with The Platform in Easterhouse, and with ROSC (Recovery Oriented System of Care). ROSC has traditionally focused on substance harms, and we are working in the longer term to contribute to integrating gambling harms with substance harms: the ROSC April event will mark our first step.
As well as the film screenings we have designed and printed materials which will go out to libraries in Glasgow. These raise awareness and provide sources of support. Other print materials include advice to frontline workers on screening for gambling harms.
We have also conducted research into GP Practice websites in parts of Glasgow. We were keen to see what, if any, references to and support for gambling issues appeared on them. There is a separate report on the findings. One aim of this has been to see what ‘weighting’, if any, is given to gambling harms on the websites of GP practices in some of the most socially deprived areas of Glasgow. (We have stressed that the websites are not indicative of actual support provided by practices). There is a separate report on the findings.
There is also a separate evaluation report of the project. We hope this may be of interest to small organisations (we are just two people!) working with any health or social issues. There are things we have learned and we pass these on for your learning.
While our work to contributing to reducing gambling harms in Glasgow was kindly funded by a Gambling Harms Fund from Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector for a period of four months and is now ended, we shall continue to work in Glasgow where opportunities arise, and we shall maintain the website as we look forward to developments to challenge gambling harms across the city. At the same time we shall be working beyond Glasgow, mainly hoping to screen our film with citizen communities.
Development of awareness raising and harms prevention in Glasgow, as elsewhere, will be determined by several factors. Once the White Paper is published there will be a rise in discussion and involvement as it proceeds through Westminster towards a new Gambling Act. Holyrood is expected to establish more national policies along with city councils. The Glasgow multi-agency work has a base for strategic actions and this will include wider sector partnerships. The involvement of lived experience voices will hopefully grow, and there could be a more vibrant forum. Other grassroots community groups may include gambling harms in their work. Larger third sector organisations will continue their facilitation of networking, awareness raising and support for grassroots groups. Any developments in the coming year will be part of a trend for many years to come and are likely to be uneven and relatively slow in locating awareness and prevention of gambling harms ‘on the agenda’. Growth is likely to be organic and emergent; within this will be highly structured policies and strategies from various agencies.