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In Great Britain, the well-known charity GambleAware, recognised for its efforts against gambling addiction, has been accused of accepting millions in donations from the gambling industry in exchange for promoting its interests. The Charity Commission has just issued its ruling on the matter.

In March 2024, the Charity Commission, which registers and regulates charities in Great Britain, received a complaint from the Good Law Project, questioning GambleAware’s integrity. This led to the launch of an official investigation.

Conflict of interest

During the 2022-2023 financial year, GambleAware received over £46 million (€55 million) and was heavily reliant on funding from the gambling industry.
The Good Law Project highlighted several issues with the materials provided by the charity, which were ultimately funded by industry donations. For instance, a self-assessment test advised gamblers who admitted wagering more than their earnings to reduce the frequency of their gambling rather than to quit. This advice was also given to self-declared underage players, despite gambling being illegal for minors in Great Britain.

Mr. Prochaska, head of the Coalition Against Gambling Ads, reacted: “We’ve got people who are clearly showing signs of a clinical mental health disorder and addiction. Instead of being advised to stop gambling and help to stop gambling, which is what people need, they’re being told to reduce their gambling. It would be like telling a heroin addict to just try and have one shot a week rather than 20. It’s irresponsible and clearly in the interest of their funders, not the beneficiaries, for these people to keep gambling.”

Normalising gambling for children

The charity provides awareness materials to teachers in schools. One document for 14-year-old students reads, “This lesson is not to demonise the gambling industry. They are promoting their trade just like any other potentially risky pastime might, fully sanctioned by law,” leading to accusations that GambleAware was normalising gambling for children.

Inefficient treatment programme

According to GambleAware’s own statistics, a quarter of problem gamblers receiving treatment through the charity’s programs showed no improvement or worsening symptoms in 2022-2023.

Charles Ritchie, chair of Gambling with Lives, declared: “It is a source of great distress to bereaved families that they see their family members as having received inadequate treatment from under-qualified staff who deliver short interventions unsupported by the evidence base and without complete information about the health harms caused by gambling products and predatory marketing.”

Victim blaming

Opponents argue that due to the charity’s conflicted interests, it has adopted the industry’s viewpoint on how to handle addiction. Instead of addressing companies’ predatory and aggressive tactics, GambleAware focuses on teaching players, even from a young age, how to gamble “responsibly,” thus shifting the burden of responsibility for addiction onto the individuals.

"Robustly independent"

GambleAware has refuted all these allegations, asserting that it is “robustly independent” from the gambling industry. It also pointed to its results, such as the thousands of people helped to fight their addiction and its awareness campaigns.
"The treatment and support we commission, which includes the National Gambling Support Network and National Gambling Helpline, represent one of the few lines of defence available to the millions impacted by gambling harms each year."

Charity Commission clears GambleAware

The Charity Commission eventually ruled that GambleAware had appropriate processes in place to achieve its objectives.
GambleAware is now asking the government to help it transition from voluntary donations from charities to a model based on mandatory donations.
Zoë Osmond, CEO of GambleAware, explained, “We continue our work to prevent gambling harm and provide vital support to those affected. This includes the commissioning of impactful gambling harm prevention programs and treatment services through the National Gambling Support Network.”

"We believe charities should be run for public benefit, not for the shady interests who fund them. We’ll continue to hold the regulator accountable, so it steps up to stop charities breaking the law", declared The Good Law Project.

WHAT’S NEXT: SiGMA East Europe Summit powered by Soft2Bet, happening in Budapest from 2 – 4 September.
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