GambleAware partners with UoB to uncover problem gambling issues

Gambling industry charity GambleAware has cemented a new partnership with the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) which will focus on the role that the financial industry can best help those who experience or are at risk of gambling-related harm.

The three-year partnership will research methods which mitigate the financial losses incurred by problem gambling behaviours, as well as outline the ways that financial service providers and support organisations can offer their help.

Dr Jane Rigbye, Director of Education at GambleAware, explained: “We want to prevent people from getting into problems with their gambling and we welcome the proactive steps that some banks have taken to protect their customers. 

“People must be able to gamble in a safe environment,  so we are pleased to be commissioning this project to determine how financial organisations can best protect people from gambling harm.”

The partnership follows on from the news that a number of UK banks – most notably Barclays, Monzo and Starling – have introduced ‘gambling blocks’ features which enable customers to block transactions at gambling outlets, both online and in-person.

Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the Financial Conduct Authority, added: “We welcome this new research, which aims to support initiatives to protect vulnerable consumers from harm. We look forward to the outcomes with interest.”

The initial six months of the partnership will look at the effectiveness of gambling blocks and how their potential could be maximised in the future. 

This will then be extended to the provision of practical guidance for financial services firms about how best to support customers affected by gambling; identifying effective financial self-help for gamblers, such as apps, budget planners or money guidance; and the feasibility of a ‘single gateway’ for credit self-exclusion.

Welcoming the new partnership, Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, Consultant Psychiatrist in Addictions and Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London, said: “The financial services sector can play an important role in helping create a safer environment for people with gambling problems, for example by making it easier for individuals to limit their gambling spend.”

Professor Sharon Collard, from the PFRC at the University of Bristol, is leading the programme: “We know that people in recovery from problem gambling already use informal workarounds to prevent themselves from spending money on gambling, such as forfeiting their card to a third party or scratching off the card security number.

“The new solutions from banks, however, allow customers to do this more formally – and, possibly, more successfully. But at present, there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of such spending controls, nor about the characteristics of those who use them.

“We also don’t know much about the unintended consequences of these spending blockers. For example, whether it leads to customers withdrawing more money as cash and gambling with that.

“We’re looking forward to working with a wide range of stakeholders – especially those with lived experience of problem gambling – to come up with some real tangible solutions to benefit everyone.”

Owen Baily, Peer Support Worker at London’s National Problem Gambling Clinic, concluded: “I’m really glad that this new programme will explore and identify ways financial services organisations can help to reduce gambling-related harms.

“I know from my personal first-hand experience through having overcome a serious gambling problem and knowing many others that have, that dealing with gambling debt and creditors proves very challenging.

“Financial services organisations – when it comes to this very specific customer vulnerability – can collaboratively play a big role in preventing the escalation of a problem and also aid in the recovery process, improving overall wellbeing, minimising chances of relapse and aiding the recovery process sooner.”