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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1554- v
House of commons
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Tuesday 22 November 2011
Helena Chambers, Daniel Webster, James North, Gareth Wallace and lauri moyle
Andy McLellan, Anthony Jenkins, Heather Wardle and Professor Jim Orford
Evidence heard in Public Questions 454 - 583
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
on Tuesday 22 November 2011
Mr John Whittingdale (Chair)
Dr Thérèse Coffey
Mrs Louise Mensch
Mr Adrian Sanders
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Helena Chambers, Director, Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, Daniel Webster, Parliamentary Officer, Evangelical Alliance, James North, Policy Officer, Methodist Church in Great Britain, Gareth Wallace, Public Affairs Officer, Salvation Army, and Lauri Moyle, Gambling Policy Officer, CARE, gave evidence.
Chair: Good morning, I apologise for the delay in starting, but the Committee has rather a lot of other business. However, we now return to our inquiry into the implementation of the Gambling Act and I would like to welcome for our first panel representatives of the faith groups: Helen Chambers from Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, Daniel Webster of the Evangelical Alliance, James North from the Methodist Church, Gareth Wallace of the Salvation Army, and Lauri Moyle of CARE. Damian Collins is going to start.
Q454 Damian Collins: I would like to address my first question to Daniel Webster. In the written evidence submission from the Evangelical Alliance, your first point, you said, "The ethical dimension must be considered in gambling legislation. It is an industry based on one person winning at the expense of another. This should not be ignored." Does that mean that you are against all gambling?
Daniel Webster: No, we are not against all gambling. We are not prohibitionist but we are conscious that gambling isn’t an industry that comes without a cost. There is a cost to gambling that when people play; when some people win many other people lose. When gambling policy is being structured, when regulation is arranged, that has to be done very conscious of the fact that some people lose out. That is why we look for a regulatory structure around gambling that takes care of the poor and the vulnerable that is not focused just around economic interests, but considers those who perhaps might be the least well off.
Q455 Damian Collins: What is an acceptable level of cost?
Daniel Webster: Financial cost or social cost?
Damian Collins: You used that term, "cost".
Daniel Webster: There is a social cost in terms of the harm of breakdown in people’s lives, there is the financial cost that people lose money. But we are also interested in the fact that people lose out when their families break down and marriages break up, when people are spending more than they can afford on gambling, which is regulated by the Government. There is a responsibility on the Government and on the Gambling Commission to take heed of that cost as well as the financial side.
Q456 Damian Collins: So my question was what is an acceptable level of that cost then? You said that cost is inherent in gambling and you are not anti-gambling, so what is an acceptable level of the cost of gambling? If I could just ask you to answer the question.
Daniel Webster: I am not sure it is that easy to measure that type of cost. If we are talking about a family breakdown there are ways of considering that-that is not something that is easy to put a figure on, but it is something we would be interested in knowing more about. I think one of the things that is very evident is that there is a lack of research-a lack of understanding about the impact of gambling problems. I would like to know more about what is the social cost.
Q457 Damian Collins: Let me ask the question a different way, what is acceptable gambling to you? What gambling are you happy to see people taking part in?
Daniel Webster: I am happy for people to gamble, I am conscious that people are free to use their money as they wish. I think there are a few areas where I would like to see significant changes. I think the fact that children under the age of 18 can gamble is something the Government should look at changing.
Q458 Damian Collins: Yes, so what is acceptable? Having a flutter on the Grand National, is that allowed?
Daniel Webster: I have gambled in the past. I am not against that. I think it is when people are in a habit of gambling that is sustained, that is regular, that is having an impact on their lives and those around them, that is when it is unacceptable.
Q459 Damian Collins: I understand what you think is unacceptable, I am interested in what you think is acceptable. You are saying you are not a prohibitionist, so what type of gambling do you think is perfectly acceptable and not causing any problems, not harming anyone?
Daniel Webster: I think in many of the different types of gambling there are ways that people would gamble in a sensible and responsible manner.
Q460 Damian Collins: Can you name two?
Daniel Webster: That could be when people are engaging in bingo, in the National Lottery; those are areas that are shown to have fewer problems with problem gambling just by the way that they are structured. So, for example, with the National Lottery, people play week on week, there is not, "Oh, I lost on the lottery today, I can go and play immediately again". There is a delay in the play. That is a responsible way of gambling. Likewise in bingo halls, people can go to play, they are making a choice to gamble and then when they go away that is the end of their gambling experience.
Q461 Damian Collins: Is that not the same as horse racing as well?
Daniel Webster: You can gamble on horse racing whenever you like. Betting shops now have virtual horse races to cater for the fact that there might not be horse races on. While I do not have a clear linear line of more and less dangerous forms of gambling, I think there are those that are more dangerous and those that are less dangerous. I do not have a hierarchy to give you.
Q462 Damian Collins: With horse racing, is that the frequency rather than the process of betting money on horses itself? Is there an inherent problem in that type of gambling, something millions of people enjoy, or is it the amount of times they do it?
Daniel Webster: I think the frequency of play is a question to be considered, I think the level of stakes that can be placed-certainly if you are talking about virtual and gaming machines-is something to consider, as are the speed of play, how frequently you can play again, and the availability. There is a range of different things that contribute to make up the inherent risk in different forms of gambling.
Q463 Damian Collins: So lottery essentially okay, bingo okay, horse racing maybe, slot machines no? Would that be a fair summary?
Daniel Webster: I think that if you look at some of the figures, particularly those relating to referrals to GamCare, you see that B2 machines, FOBTs, are cited in 22% of callers, whereas only 6% of par sheet gamblers use them. I think there would seem to be a much higher level of risk in those particular types of machines.
Q464 Damian Collins: If I could ask the panel, so anyone who wants to respond, do you think what has been recorded as the incidence of the increase in problem gambling since the 2005 Act has been overstated?
James North: Absolutely not, I think it has been understated. There were two separate screens, two different ways of measuring the level in problem gambling, technically the DSM-IV and PGSI, both of which showed a rise in problem gambling. One of them showed a statistically significant rise in problem gambling, which is a very stringent test of certainty. Essentially there is only a 1 in 20 chance that one of the screens, the DSM-IV, did not show a significant rise in gambling. The interval was technically between 0.7 and 1.2 as a rise from 0.6. So there is a 19:20 chance that there was a statistically significant rise in problem gambling-only 1:20 that there was not.
Q465 Damian Collins: But we are talking about a very, very small increase, and right on the margin of statistical significance. When this is reported as a 50% increase in problem gambling, that is a massive exaggeration on the data, is it not?
James North: It is an inaccurate way of putting the finding. It is not a massive exaggeration. The 0.9 figure would be the top of the bell curve statistically. As we have just said, there is a 95% chance that the rise has been from 0.6 to 0.7 all the way up to 1.2. So it is far from being a massive exaggeration.
Helena Chambers: Could I just add, I think it depends whether you look in terms of percentage points or if you are looking in terms of numbers. If you are looking in terms of the numbers of problem gamblers who have increased, it is a very large increase from about 250,000 to about 400,000, so it is 150,000.
Q466 Damian Collins: That is if you take the data at face value. What the research is saying is there is a debate because the increase is so small, from 0.6 to 0.9 of a percentage point. It is an educated guess based on the sample, because you are not serving every person in the country, so you do not know exactly, even if you believe the answers that they give. We are looking at an increase from 0.6 to 0.9, so right on the margin of significance and I think to extrapolate that as being a 50% increase or that this means there are now 100,000 new problem gamblers since 2005, I am not certain you can say that with any confidence.
James North: That is a fair point, however, it should be said that the Royal Society and medical research frequently take less robust evidence than that as scientifically credible and as grounds for evidence-based policy. There could not really be a more robust finding than this statistically-in the 2010 study, I think, the total number surveyed was 8,000, and it was done in a very rigorous manner. When you are looking at say a figure of between 0.5% and 1% of that, it is inevitably a small number but having consulted statisticians about this, I have been told there could not conceivably, in the parameters of this survey, have been a more robust demonstration of a statistically significant rise.
Helena Chambers: I would remind you, having been around at the time when the Gambling Act was passed, that it was recognised that the liberalisation that the Act allowed might result in an increase in problem gambling, and it was said then that if there was evidence of that it would be swiftly acted upon. There is evidence of it. We can argue about the significance of it, but since there was a potential for an increase in this that has been shown in other jurisdictions when you get similar liberalisations, it is beginning to happen. I would perhaps turn your own question back on you: if this is not significant evidence what would be?
Q467 Damian Collins: Is it not the case that this evidence is based on a potential increase in the number of problem gamblers in a sample of fewer than 20 people? So if there is that number within the sample, I think it is reasonable to question how significant this movement within the sample is.
Helena Chambers: Perhaps you will be able to question the-
Gareth Wallace: I think any undermining of what is Government sponsored and supported research I would resist. This was evidence commissioned by NatCen on behalf of the Government. It is a professional organisation that conducts research across a whole range of issues. It is neutral, it is professional and it is effective. We see a clear correlation between the increase and availability of gambling since the Act was passed and the number of problem gamblers so, as my colleagues have said, that is a perfectly reasonable extrapolation of the figures.
In fact, the most recent survey outlines the figure on at-risk gamblers, which is 7.3% over the 0.9% of problem gamblers. There is this huge additional number of people who are at risk of problem gambling. We are calling for more and greater funding for research rather than the proposed cut in future funding of the prevalent surveys.
Q468 Damian Collins: Later in this morning’s session we are going to look at the detail of the way the research has been conducted, and we certainly have questions about that. The point I was making is that the people in the panel this morning are hanging their hat on the statistical significance of a survey that is right on the margin and is based on the movement of opinion of potentially fewer than 20 people, so I think it is reasonable for us to question how significant that evidence is.
I would like to move on to a slightly different topic now. I do not want to pick on Mr Webster, but I know it is something that was highlighted in the Evangelical Alliance’s written submission to us-this is for the other groups too-and it is on advertising and the prevalence of advertising. There were calls for advertising to be removed from locations where children might be present, where children might be targeted, that is already expressly forbidden in the advertising code. Where do you feel the advertising code is falling down because that is already forbidden?
Daniel Webster: I am aware that the code does impose restrictions.
Damian Collins: It prohibits it; it is not restrictions.
Daniel Webster: One of the major changes that was made in the 2005 Act was the introduction of advertising. We think it is essential to see what link there is between advertising and participation in gambling and potentially any problems in gambling. We are particularly concerned about adverts that might not be designed, or might not be allowed but still appeal to younger people. Or if they are in places where young people are-
Q469 Damian Collins: I understand that, but the question was, you said in your evidence, and other people have echoed this, that you do not want advertising to be put within reach of children, if you like. It is already forbidden by the code, so advertisers are not allowed to do that, and given you are calling for it, I am asking: Are there specific examples you have seen? Have you put in complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about the timing of adverts or the location of billboards?
Daniel Webster: I think what I am conscious of is physical adverts in situations that might not be explicitly near children, for example close to schools, but are on buses or are on street corners that are frequently and easily seen. It is easier to do in terms of television adverts to say gambling advertising should not be allowed pre the watershed, but I think it is also worth considering-and I do not have any concrete proposals-how such a thing could be done with physical advertising as well.
Q470 Damian Collins: Have any of the organisations on the panel ever put in a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about a specific advert, its location or its timing?
Gareth Wallace: I think at the time of the suggestion we were amazed that whenever advertising for cigarettes was moving towards a ban, advertising for gambling was going to be permitted. So I think the idea of us objecting to individual adverts misses the point somewhat.
Q471 Damian Collins: The point is you want an absolute ban?
Gareth Wallace: The issue was that at a time when smoking, because of its healthrelated concerns, was receiving an advertising ban, we were liberalising the gambling industry and we were permitting advertising. That is the submission that we made at the time. That is the position that we still hold to.
Q472 Damian Collins: I appreciate other colleagues have questions as well, so I would be right in saying that none of your organisations have ever put in a specific complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about the siting or timing of adverts. You cannot give any specific examples of where you think there may have been a problem. What you are saying is that because children might see any gambling adverts there should not be any at all?
Gareth Wallace: Because a small minority of people have a problem with gambling in the same way that some people have a problem with smoking, it seems unusual that smoking advertising would be banned and gambling advertising would be permitted with the tiniest health warning possible in the corner.
Q473 Chair: But smoking damages everybody
Gareth Wallace: Sorry?
Chair: Smoking damages everybody.
Gareth Wallace: It does, and perhaps that is why smoking is treated even more seriously, but we think that gambling is not being treated seriously enough.
Q474 Damian Collins: But you cannot have passive gambling, can you? I do not have a gambling problem if I am standing next to someone who is playing on a fruit machine and I am not engaged in it myself. Just be clear on this, because what the submissions are not saying is that there should be a prohibition on gambling advertising; they are calling for restrictions on advertising to children, and I think where we have got to is that no one can give any particular examples of where that has happened and it has been bad. What you are really saying is there should not be any advertising of gambling at all? Mr Wallace, that is the logic of what you are saying, is it not?
Gareth Wallace: On a specific example, one intriguing issue would be around the sponsorship of football teams. What if a football teams wants to sponsor a strip, and on the adult strip, you are allowed to have a gambling firm, but on the children’s strip you are not allowed to have it, what would the child ask the father whenever his football strip is bought? That is the kind of thing where an advert could be public-an advert on a tube train, an advert as you are passing on a billboard, as my colleague says-and a child sees that. Those adverts are obviously selling a product, they are selling a lifestyle.
Damian Collins: But that is the same for alcoholic drinks.
Gareth Wallace: They are part of the normalisation of gambling where we know from the statistics that a small percentage of people have problems with gambling and this affects their life adversely and gambling advertising could be a way of reminding people. There is a "Gamble Aware" note on the bottom of gambling adverts, maybe that could be bigger.
Q475 Damian Collins: You would probably describe the same for alcohol. Alcohol companies can advertise on football shirts and advertising is not targeted to the children. There is no difference, but what you are saying, and I do not understand why you are shying away from this now, is that you want a prohibition on gambling advertising.
Gareth Wallace: Sorry, we do want a prohibition?
Damian Collins: Yes, a total prohibition.
Gareth Wallace: Yes, personally as the Salvation Army, I would like gambling advertising to be restricted in the same way that smoking is.
Q476 Damian Collins: But you have never put in any complaints about it.
Gareth Wallace: I have a lot of things on my plate, mainly around our 70-plus homeless hostels, around our programmes to get people to work.
Damian Collins: We all know the Salvation Army does a fantastic job.
Gareth Wallace: This is a minor part of my work, but it is very important for the people who are addicted to problem gambling.
Damian Collins: I understand.
Q477 Mr Sanders: What evidence do you have that advertising causes a problem?
Helena Chambers: I don’t think we would want to get harnessed too far down this route. What we are talking about is the subliminal effects of large-scale advertising, and it is very difficult to research and very difficult to prove. As I understand it, there is some research in train that the Responsible Gambling Fund might have funded. I think one of the next witnesses might be able to speak to that. We felt it was a great mistake-given that there were so many liberalisations that happened at once-for advertising to happen at the same time. It then becomes very difficult to unpick what the influences of different elements are.
In general terms, I think what we would be looking for is a precautionary approach, and one of the things that we called for is for inducements-so many free gambles-not to be a feature of advertising. That is quite commonplace, and it happens on television advertising as well as in other forms. That seems to be an obvious area of concern. In the alcohol field, for example, there is some evidence that particular groups are particularly adversely affected by advertising. There is one study that I think we have cited in our submission to you that youths who are already showing signs of problem gambling are particularly influenced by advertising, more so than people who are not. There is a small evidence base there, but it is very difficult to unpick.
Q478 Mr Sanders: You do see the difficulty that we are having: you have raised the issue of advertising, but you cannot come up with a single example of an advert that has caused a problem, you cannot cite any evidence at all that states that it causes a problem, and we have to deal with evidence in order to reach conclusions.
James North: There are two things that we could suggest that would be very helpful for the Committee to do. The first thing is that the reason for this lack of evidence and credible understanding of youth problem gambling and advertising is that the work has not really been done. Firstly, because the liberalisation only occurred post-2005 and the roll out of legislation, and, secondly, because of the lack of funding for a bespoke youth gambling and youth problem gambling study, that has not been done. We have called for it to be done and we hope that the Commission will take this in hand to enable such a study to happen.
What can be done is to look comparatively at other jurisdictions that have had similar liberalisation and have studied the effects of advertising. We think that Canada and Australia have both done similar studies and they found particular markers of kinds of advertising that are particularly effective at promoting gambling among youths-for example quasi-adolescent characters, ironic humour and so on. The link is well established in those jurisdictions. We have no reason to think that the precautionary approach shows anything but that it would be the same here, but the study should be done and we are calling for it.
Q479 Mr Sanders: James, you said, "We think something has been happening in Canada and Australia". We know that in Australia, the liberalisation of gambling went far further than in this country, so it would not be a comparator. I do not know about Canada. What we need is for you to say, "Yes, there was a study and this is it, and this is what it found". That is our difficulty.
James North: We would be delighted to return to the Committee with further evidence. Some of the studies are quite technical, but our first task is to make sure that the data and the findings reflect the UK situation where research has not been done.
Daniel Webster: If I may add, I think that emphasises the significant need for better research into what has happened since 2005. We are particularly concerned at a time when we are trying to assess what has happened and you are conducting this inquiry, that the funding for research, education and treatment into the effects of gambling is in a little bit of a chaotic situation, that the structures that were put in place have effectively fallen apart. We think it is high time that the Government introduced a levy on the gambling industry to ensure that sufficient resources are given to the funding of research, education and treatment that would then be able to provide the evidence that you are looking for.
Q480 Damian Collins: Just very briefly, Mr North, you noted that in other jurisdictions, people of a quasi-teenage appearance were used in gambling adverts and that may have attracted people in. But is it not the case that in the UK you cannot depict anyone who appears to look under 25 in advertising, so that would not apply here?
James North: There are ways and means of tweaking advertising to be more or less appealing to youths.
Q481 Damian Collins: That is why they have a regulator to make sure the agencies do not get away with it.
Mr Sanders: You can complain to them if you see such an advert.
James North: Indeed. On the subject that was raised earlier about have we as denominations made specific complaints? The answer certainly from the Methodist Church, with respect, is that it is not our responsibility corporately to make complaints, because we do not have a corporate anti-gambling stance. We do advocate that those of our members who choose to gamble do so responsibly, and we would take a keen interest in any complaints raised by a member of our Church to the Advertising Standards Authority and would factor that in. It is not our job to roll that out corporately.
Q482 Damian Collins: I appreciate that. The point I was making is the reason you would not have complained about people of teenage or juvenile appearance appearing in advertising adverts is it is strictly prohibited by the code.
James North: Yes, that was a one of a number of factors, including the use of ironic humour, zaniness, and so on and so forth. Any indicators for advertising that is liable to lead to an increase in youth problem gambling may have nation-specific factors and, of course, will have to bear in mind the regulatory processes in each jurisdiction, but that just underlines the need for the study.
Helena Chambers: I think the general point is the same one that applies to alcohol. If you have a large amount of television advertising promoting gambling in different ways, health education messages have a fraction of the budgets to promote responsible behaviour in comparison, so it always becomes a retrospective action. That is the same with alcohol.
James North: There is another form of advertising that we would like to express concerns about, which is the online situation. Clearly, one of the main changes in the gambling landscape since the Act is the great spread not only of broadband internet access, but of online gambling and online advertising. We are all familiar with pop-ups encouraging us to gamble through certain sites that come to us, even unsolicited. So besides TV advertising and billboards and so forth, we would particularly like to raise the risk of online advertising gaming to youths.
Damian Collins: That is now covered by the regulator as well though.
Chair: I think we need to move on to the next area.
Q483 Dr Coffey: Talking about young people and underage gambling in terms of what is legal as opposed to what view you would like it to be, some small stake prizes, classic coastal town resorts, say Felixstowe, where I am from, or Torquay, which Adrian represents, have that kind of small value, if not any value, recompenses. Is there any evidence to show that children who indulge in that then go on to become serious gamblers? I do not mind who answers.
Helena Chambers: The strongest evidence, as I understand it, relates to fruit machines, and again that goes back perhaps to the first question about risks of a particular form of gambling, and that is because of the reinforcement schedule of-
Dr Coffey: The fruit machine
Helena Chambers: It works in the same way, although the stakes are lower and the prizes are lower; in terms of a reinforcement schedule, it works in the same way. We would be particularly concerned about those forms of gambling.
Q484 Dr Coffey: So the sort of things you get in a motorway service station, for example, do not worry you too much; it is the fruit machine orientation.
Helena Chambers: Well, it depends what is in the service station. We have concerns about all children’s gambling, but the evidence is strongest about fruit machine gambling and there are studies that we can send you the details of that show higher rates among adolescents, higher rates of problems than you get among adults. I am sure your other witnesses will be able to give you chapter and verse on that.
Daniel Webster: The 2010 prevalence study did show that among those who gambled earlier in life, the incidence of problem gambling was higher. I think it was 1.6% for those who gambled between 11 and 15, as opposed to 0.6% for those who did not gamble until they were 22 or over.
Q485 Dr Coffey: You will be aware of the failure rate of the test purchasing scheme-there has been another one subsequently. In your opinion have the industry operators been able to demonstrate sufficient measures to prevent underage gambling? Have you seen any changes yourself?
Helena Chambers: I do not know if we are closely enough involved to be aware of exactly that. We take part in police liaison meetings, at which the Gambling Commission reports on these things, and we understand that there has been some improvement. Our concern is that this should be a monitoring of underage gambling, of what it is-which we do not know because we do not have a prevalent study for young people-and what the problem rates are. We have no baseline study to work from, but we have given that submission.
Gareth Wallace: Just to say what is on record, the National Lottery Commission conducted a survey in 2008-09 among adolescents aged 12 to 15, and they reported 4.9% have some form of problem with gambling and the overwhelming majority of that, 3.2%, had a problem with fruit machines. So we would think that the D category machines that resemble the much more high stakes, high prices, adult machines are a potential way in but, as we have said, more research is required. An excellent survey was done by the National Lottery Commission, which is presumably now going to be merged into the Gambling Commission after a quango cut. Coupled with our concerns about inadequate funding for future research, we think that more research on child gambling could be incorporated in strength and future research as a whole.
Q486 Dr Coffey: I do not want to stray into a colleague’s question because I know we are getting on to online. The industry would argue that in online gambling, there is much tighter control on age, because they try and get you to do it by credit card, and there are other checks on how you get a credit card. One of the other things that has been mentioned to me-and I am just wondering if you have any evidence from your organisation-is telephone quizzes, which are not strictly gambling, but are seen as high value, low entry, if you like, and appeal more to younger people. Is there any suggestion that people are using their telephone to do those late-night quizzes, as opposed to adults?
Helena Chambers: I do not think we have any evidence, but it is something that we would be concerned about. On the other point, we do notice in GamCare figures, which perhaps the next witness will be able to speak about, among the calls from under 18s there is a fairly high proportion who have problems with B2 machines, which they are not legally entitled to play, so there is still some enforcement issue there.
Q487 Chair: That brings us neatly on to B2s. We have received evidence that some people have called them crack cocaine; we have also been told by the betting industry that there is no evidence that they pose any additional harm at all and it would help if they had more of them. I take it you are probably closer to the first view than the second, but perhaps you would like to tell us why?
Daniel Webster: I have already mentioned the statistics that refer to the GamCare cause. B2 machines, or fixed odd betting terminals as they are perhaps more commonly known, are fast playing machines. They are high stake machines, you can play in multiples of £10 and you can lose a lot of money very quickly. I think what we see from the revenue statistics from the betting industry is that an increasing proportion of their revenue comes from these machines. I think it stands around 46% at the moment. Betting shops are principally being held up at the moment in terms of their economic viability by these machines, and it is because people are losing large sums of money on these machines that the betting industry is surviving.
As with all these areas, we always want more research. We always want more evidence, we want more indication of what is happening and what are the causes. The Responsible Gambling Fund commissioned a study by NatCen that was published just last week that looked at the density of machines in areas. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the data, they could not differentiate between the different types of machines, but they did show that there is a higher density of machines in areas with higher levels of deprivation, with lower levels of employment and economic activity. I think these indicators are enough to get us started with thinking, "How can we perhaps row back on the permissive nature of the 2005 Act that allowed betting shops to have these machines?"
Q488 Chair: The industry will point out to you the prevalence studies, one in 2007 and one in 2009, which showed no increase in the level of problem gambling, yet it was during that particular period that B2s arrived at betting shops in their thousands. Why, therefore, does it not appear to have had an effect during that time?
Helena Chambers: During that time there were indications of problems with the B2 machines. They had to have their own column in GamCare figures, they could not be incorporated in the slot machine column. In a way, this is a very good example of what should not have happened really. It was apparent that these machines had high risk features. They are very fast play, they have very high stakes-which is the key point-so you can lose an awful lot very quickly and they could be widely dispersed in casually accessed locations. All of these are risk factors. It is hardly surprising that that follows through into disproportionately high rates of reported problems by treatment agencies.
When you have that triangulation of evidence, we would say that is enough to act on. There should certainly be a drop in the stake-we suggested £2 to bring it in line with other slot machines of comparable access-or for them to be removed from betting shops. Because they are so lucrative it has enabled this proliferation of premises in certain areas. By themselves they can make premises viable, and in vulnerable communities this is a real concern. So, again, one wonders, if the evidence is not there for B2 machines, what level of evidence is needed?
Q489 Chair: Is it your view that the ease of access to B2s on a high street is creating new problem gamblers, or is it just making it easy for somebody with a problem to go and lose money even faster?
Gareth Wallace: One of our friends who talked to us and has a problem with their gambling explained how they had lost an awful lot of money in casinos and thought they had finally overcome that habit, with a new home, new job, new friends and slowly rebuilding their family. "I still enjoyed a bet sensibly and responsibly on the horses or dogs and then the FOBTs came along into the betting shops and changed everything, much worse than anything that had gone before. I won’t be the first or last to tell you that the atmosphere changed in our betting shops when FOBTs came along and they were turned into mini soulless casinos." What we hear is that people who have addictive problems with their gambling are often affected by fixed odds betting terminals. Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, who runs the only treatment centre in the country for problem gamblers, says that 67% of her patients-she has over 1,000 people on her books-reported using FOBTs and 47% of her patients reported them as a particular problem in their own addiction.
Q490 Chair: The Committee visited a betting shop last night and discussed with staff, for instance, the provisions that they take to allow people to self-exclude. The lady you just quoted, did she try to do that?
Gareth Wallace: Sorry, with regard to?
Chair: The lady you have quoted whose life became infinitely worse when FOBTs arrived.
Gareth Wallace: I am not going to look them up now, there are separate figures on exclusions. One difficulty often is you can exclude from one betting shop chain and then you can move to another. Someone’s addictive behaviour is almost slightly outside of their own control. That is why it is addictive. The human mind will find a way of getting round it. While we welcome self-banning, we think that there has been an increase in that, which is born out of an increase in people wanting to gamble on these machines. We feel that the measures that are in place are perhaps not strict enough and certainly again, friends we know who have gambling problems may have self-banned and then taken themselves off that self-banning.
Q491 Chair: Do you want them banned, or do you want them restricted to off-high street venues, or just have lower limits on the stakes?
Gareth Wallace: I think there are a range of measures with any gambling machine that can be taken. One interesting thing is you can take your debit card to the member of staff, load it up with money and then that virtual money is played on the machine. At the end, if you want to collect your winnings you have to take your chit and go back and collect it. Maybe there is a temptation just to keep playing on the winnings that you may have won until you have lost your money. I think there are things that can be done in terms of breaks in play, in terms of whether it is cards or cash, in terms of making it more obvious how much money you are spending, making the Gamble Aware number more prominent; things like that could certainly be helpful.
Q492 Chair: I have to say that we were given evidence last night that the ease of provision of information about, for instance, help lines for people who do have problems was considerable. There were leaflets dotted all the way around the betting shop.
Helena Chambers: Is that not an example, though, that attempts at trying interventions after people have already developed problems is not the best approach? Availability and access are risk factors. Regulation can tackle availability.
Q493 Chair: So do you want them banned?
Helena Chambers: I think ideally what we would like is-we suggested, as I say-a reduction of the stakes to £2, or for them to be removed. In more general terms, what we would like to see is a strategy that would look at the evidence base that is needed to inform regulation and have a kind of risk-based approach to licensing, so where there is evidence either of risk or of harm a more stringent approach is taken than where there is not. What we are suggesting practically in terms of another approach that would go across the piece is for local authorities to have the ability to decide on gambling premises on any grounds that they choose, so that they are not limited by having to prove that the fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth betting shop causes problems. It is almost impossible under the current legislation for a local authority to refuse yet another licence.
Q494 Chair: We are going to come on to that in just a second. Before I pass the questioning over to Steve, you will be aware there has also been an increase permitted in the allowances for B3 machines. Is that something that you are concerned about?
Gareth Wallace: We are concerned that there does appear to be this trend towards continual catchup emphasis. So the category C machines increase their stakes and then almost in response to that there was a pressure on venues, bingo halls and arcades that had B3 machines and felt that their machines were being pushed out of the market, so they wanted an increase. One of the things that was most surprising about the most recent review of B3 machines is that there was a lot of evidence put forward by sectors of the gambling industry to suggest that this was a necessary measure to ensure their economic survival. Even in, I believe it was, the Gambling Commission or the DCMS consultation document, reference was made to the fact that in the earlier consultation for the category C machines, the industry had made similar claims and those claims had not yet come to fruition. I would urge the Government to be hesitant in accepting and acknowledging the economic case that is put to them. I also note that the Government have announced a new triennial review of all gaming categories. That is something that we will be taking part in, and we will be feeding into the consultation. I only received it yesterday. Our position would be that it is not an opportunity for change, just for the industry to make more money. It is also an opportunity for restrictions, whether it is on B2 machines or other categories, that are shown to be particularly damaging.
James North: I would just like to add the general points that should be borne in mind. Both the Gambling Act 2005 and the Gambling Commission are established on the precautionary principle. The Act was trying to do two things that are very hard to reconcile, which is on the one hand to enable legitimate industry expansion, but on the other hand not to lead to an increase in problem gambling. Now, it is the job of the Government and the regulator to try and reconcile those two things, but we are seeing that the direction of travel is towards liberalisation and the precautionary principle is not being given due weight. One very good example of that is that presumption to permit in local planning that we have been hearing about, if the precautionary principle is really the legal backdrop to our thinking about localism-which is very much a coalition theme-then that gives strong grounds for removing the presumption to permit.
Q495 Steve Rotheram: Just perhaps to expand on what Helena touched on. Harriet Harman has spoken about the proliferation of bookmakers being damaging, changing the look and feel of high streets and making them less safe. Should local authorities be doing more to tackle the clustering of betting shops in some high streets or do they need more powers to help them do so?
Daniel Webster: I think they do need more powers. I think that it could come through a variety of different forms, the most obvious one to us is that local authorities have the same powers that they have in regard to alcohol licensing to adopt cumulative impact policies. Let’s say in this zone it can be a smaller area-it can be a larger area-we do not want any more betting establishments, and that gives them a great deal of discretion to decide for themselves, and for their communities, what gambling opportunities they want. It does not necessarily need to impact on the ability of companies to open premises in other areas of that local authority’s jurisdictions, but it does give the control to the local authority. Because what we see at the moment is that local authorities are often afraid of refusing, because then they are faced with hefty legal bills which are brought when they reject applications and they end up shying away from refusing applications, even when they might be minded to do otherwise.
I think we need more powers for local authorities, but we also need local authorities to know what powers they have. It is not an area of particular expertise, but I am aware that under the new Localism Act, there will be greater powers involved to deal with neighbourhood development plans. I think local authorities need to know how they can use those powers to regulate the gambling opportunities in their community.
Helena Chambers: I think that would be one of our very loud and clear messages to you. Yes, local authorities do need more powers, because the recent research by the RGF-and you have one of the authors here I think-shows clustering or density related to some areas of lower economic privilege as regards machines. Certainly in some cases there is a trend that way. That needs unpicking locally, and the best people placed to do that are local authorities. So, yes, for them to have powers locally-a general trend that seems to be going with the Government’s thinking, to make those discretionary decisions-it would address the concerns about betting shops and B2s, or it would go some way to doing that. It would also be helpful across the whole gambling opportunities in a given area, that those decisions are better made locally.
Q496 Steve Rotheram: There is the potential that the Government might liberalise machine stakes and prizes, and they have recently announced a review of limits for gaming machines. What issues do you believe that should focus on?
Helena Chambers: I think it should focus on all machines actually. The Gambling Commission has initiated quite a lot of useful research during this period, particularly on high stake, high price machines which are the most obvious area of concern. One of the consistent risk features that was accepted by most of the independent experts that they consulted was that stake size was an important risk factor. So whenever there is a raising of the stake, that has to be particularly carefully considered. The tendency has been for the whole debate to be economically led by different parts of the industry feeling more of this or that kind of machine or a raising of the stake here or there would have this or that impact on their profits. What needs to be put into that is what the risk elements of those are and whether a matrix needs to be developed.
Again, I may be corrected by more expert witnesses, but I do not think there is necessarily the evidence base to be sure what different elements of machines are, how they combine to make a particular level of risk. That needs to be teased out further in a local context. Given that there is a considerable evidence base that machines have higher rates of problem gambling than other areas, or there is an association between problem gambling and machines, all decisions need to be made on that precautionary principle. We are concerned that it just seems to be a continual leapfrog of one area over another without a systemic evidence base being gathered or criteria being established as to what evidence might be sufficient to limit those kinds of increases, or to monitor them after they have happened. None of this has happened.
James North: A good example of where we do have sufficient evidence to operate is around the profile of problem gamblers. Noting the comments about disagreement about the general rise or not of problem gambling, the groups that are problem gambling have fairly well understood markers. They tend to be younger, they tend to be poor, they tend to be in ill health and demographically, to be honest, they tend to live in the areas where there is clustering or a densification of betting shops with B2 machines. Following the principle that whatever regulation is done, it should protect children and the vulnerable-which is the third objective of the Gambling Act 2005-any direction of travel towards putting potentially addictive machines in places where those vulnerable to them are must be reversed.
Q497 Mrs Mensch: I am going to ask a few questions and time is really pressing, so I would be grateful if you could keep the answers short. I am going abandon, Chairman, the questions that are on the sheet and ask other questions because time is so pressing. Mr Wallace, in preparation for today’s session, last night I went online and read posts from the GRASP-Gambling Reform and Society Perception-forum. I think you asked your members to submit their stories to that thread so that the Select Committee might be made aware of them. These are stories of problem gamblers giving their personal stories and their testimonies of addiction. I had it printed off for today’s session, it runs to 31 pages. I think contrary to what my colleague, Damian Collins, says, there clearly is passive gambling, because the families and children of those affected by problem gambling very much suffer from it.
Can I ask you a series of questions, and I would be obliged if you keep the answers fairly succinct? First of all and generally to the panel, it is your contention that problem gambling is not correctly identified, or not sufficiently identified, and that the official figures underestimate the number of problem gamblers and extent of problem gambling that we have in this country? Can I ask you, broadly speaking, how many come to you and ask for help? Is it the numbers that approach you and ask for help that lead you to believe that problem gambling is underidentified?
James North: Perhaps two points. First, we do not think the official figures are an underrepresentation; we accept the official judgement in the prevalence survey that they represent a rise in problem gambling. Secondly, speaking from the perspective of the Methodist Church-my colleagues can join in on this-we do not centrally collect data on gambling. Many of our local churches have been involved in treatment and counselling for gambling, but it is not our job to collate that. Because we follow the evidence-base principle, we interact more with the Commission and use the surveys as our reputable source of data.
Gareth Wallace: Anecdotally from, as you say, the GRASP group, gambling and the stigma attached to problem gambling, people who have been afflicted with this find it difficult to share and express it. While we support and endorse in that sense very professional prevalence surveys, we feel that there is an argument to say that some people may feel unable or unwilling to talk about their problem or admit to it-perhaps that is the nature of addictive behaviour.
Q498 Mrs Mensch: If I could move on, having read this thoroughly, a couple of common threads jumped out at me from the evidence given by problem gamblers of how gambling had destroyed their lives and, clearly, one thing that comes up again and again is people saying that they got into gambling through fruit machines. There are many, many stories of young people saying that fruit machines were their first addictive leap into gambling. The second major complaint appears to be a common thread throughout all of this, and perhaps you could comment on it. Firstly, online gambling does not have sufficient controls on the amount betted. There appears to be a concern that you can bet on a credit card, whereas you would not be able to go to your bank and say, "I want to borrow in order to gamble". They would not give you the money, but you can put it on a credit card and gamble on credit. That is one repeated concern.
Another repeated concern is how difficult it is to leave an online betting site-there are withdrawal penalties, and you cannot withdraw your money all at once if you want to close it down. Then problem gamblers are chased with emails saying, "It is very easy to log back in. It is very easy to start your account up again". Do these fit with your experiences of how some problem gamblers have come to you?
Lauri Moyle: My name is Lauri Moyle, I focus on remote gambling and that is part of my role here. My experience with stories that people tell us-they are not extensive as we are not a membership organisation that necessarily has wide representation-but one of the stories that I have been told recently was of a woman who started gambling when she was nine and she attempted suicide when she was 19. Now she is in her later years and she had a severe addiction. I went through the process of helping her, and she came out the other side. A couple of years later, a family member died and she had learned how to deal with coping with where she needs not to go, so she would not be tempted to go and gamble. One of the areas that she came across was online and that was something that was in her house, and so it is there 24 hours a day. She essentially told me that she had tried to self-exclude from a number of different sites. Some of them were easy, some of them were not as easy and I think that highlights the problem that we have in the UK at the moment where there is a disparity of regulation between different sorts of sites and where they are based.
Again, one of the highlights in terms of credit cards, the credit card that I happen to have charges interest on cash, which is at a higher rate than if you were purchasing something. It stipulates specifically that if you are going to gamble it is not going to charge it as a cash payment, but it is going to be seen as a good and service bought, which is a slight contradiction. What I would like to see would be a harmonisation of regulation or an accountability structure that all gambling websites that participate in the UK market would sign up to. I would like to see included in that a mechanism whereby it is ultra easy for somebody who has a problem to be able to self-exclude from all the websites that are available in the UK.
Q499 Mrs Mensch: Can I just stop you there because I want to jump into self-exclusion? I asked the guy who ran the forum to put it to his members why they did not self-exclude and take advantage of that opportunity, and the answer came back from one guy that in order to self-exclude he would need to visit 32 separate establishments within an 8mile radius. He could not simply just log into a national register and self-exclude from everywhere as he wished to do. I take it that the members of the panel would like to see some kind of national registry so that one could self-exclude once and for all. Would that help with problem gambling in your experience?
Helena Chambers: Yes.
Mrs Mensch: That is a general yes to that one.
Helena Chambers: Also your general concern about credit cards, absolutely because, in a way, working on the precautionary principle, is it sensible for people to gamble on credit? No. Do we need to wait for lots and lots of case law to show that that is not a good idea?
Q500 Mrs Mensch: Certainly one of the witnesses here said that borrowing to fund an addiction was a key sign of addiction, and the use of credit as opposed to debit cards was a problem he flagged up. Can I just ask you all in general? Okay, you say that you do not in fact dispute the official statistics and you have all acknowledged that the official numbers of problem gamblers is, in fact, very small, yet the remedies you are suggesting to the Committee would penalise all gamblers, even those using fixed odds betting terminals-and I do admit that FOBTs feature very heavily in the stories of addiction in this forum.
Surely the answer is not as you suggest to restrict the machines, which, as you have said, betting shops place their livelihood on, because the vast majority of gamblers, you admit, do not in fact have a problem. The answer is not to restrict types of gambling or stakes, but to have better policing of problem gamblers, rather than subjecting the entire industry to regulation for the sake of a tiny handful of problem gamblers. Is it not the fact that we should be looking at better methods of self-exclusion, better methods of detection, perhaps credit card borrowing rather than penalising the whole industry? Why are you, in essence, using a sledgehammer to crack a nut?
Lauri Moyle: I think what we would like to see certainly is education around what it means to gamble safely. I think one of the mechanisms by which you can do that is making it very clear to people who gamble that there is a risk of problem gambling. It is not just that you identify a specific subset of people who might develop a problem; it is a bit more complex than that in terms of addiction. We all might be more or less susceptible, but I would not say there is a specific group of people who are specifically at risk. In that sense, the education element of the strategy is an important thing-incorporating mechanisms for self-exclusion or setting personal limits about how much I want to gamble in a specific session and helping to enforce that kind of responsible gambling in a way that allows people who may or may not have a problem to be able to leave at an appropriate time.
Helena Chambers: Could I just tackle your question head on? I do not think it is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. There are many questions here but, for example, to take B2s, they are not played by a very large portion of the population; I think the figures for participation among gamblers is at about 6%, so when you talk about something that impacts on people’s freedom of choice, it is a fairly small proportion of people who play them, but among those there is a large proportion of people who have problems. That is the key thing. When you are talking about proportion I think that is the relationship to bear in mind, coupled with the fact that, as you say, that then goes on to have a ripple effect on their families and their communities, and in particular in terms of problem gambling their children who are then more disposed to develop a problem.
Q501 Mrs Mensch: Your remedy is to restrict an entire category of betting rather than to focus on those people who are addicted or even on addiction prevention. We had a long discussion earlier about advertising and what I did not hear, and was surprised not to hear, was a desire for some sort of health warning just as there used to be on cigarettes advertising.
Gareth Wallace: I am sorry if I did not make that clear: that is what I would personally like-a much large health warning on adverts-and similarly with things like machines, again building on the excellent work of GamCare and making things even more available. Perhaps GamCare cannot say this because they are on next, but I will say it for them: I would love them to have even more money, I would like them to have more resource to help fund education and to help provide treatment for problem gamblers. I think prevention is much better than cure and I would like to see a lot more education about the fact that if you want to gamble-and this comes back to the initial comments and the initial question-you have to ask what is an acceptable level of gambling. Perhaps an acceptable level of gambling is one that is within someone’s budget, within someone’s limits and one where someone sees it as entertainment, as money lost, and it is not something that they think they are going to win or they think that they are going to become rich-it is something that is reasonable and moderate and sensible.
Q502 Mrs Mensch: So along with, "You can win X" in your flashy betting advert, you would like to see, "You could lose substantial amounts of money. Problem gambling can lead to loss of a house", that sort of thing, whatever it might be, the same way that you have drinks labelled in the United States with, "Don’t drink this if you are pregnant" and the same way we used to have those labels on cigarette advertising back when we had it. You would like to see some acknowledgment in advertising of the negative consequences of gambling and not just a focus on winning?
Gareth Wallace: Yes.
Helena Chambers: Absolutely. The other thing to say is I do not think giving local authorities greater powers to address patterns of gambling or problem gambling in their areas is disproportionate. I think that is entirely proportionate.
Q503 Mrs Mensch: There are political considerations, if you want to make evidence-based policy. It strikes me that there are many things, having read this, that could be done to help exclusions, make them easier, allow people to take their money out of online shops, which at the moment is difficult, but all those focus on the small number of problem gamblers and do not penalise an entire industry, which is where I perceive the tenor of your remedies to be coming from. That is my last question.
James North: That is interesting and I would like to just query the question of who is being penalised, because with your question it sounded like there were two kinds of penalising-the public and the industry. I would very much like to challenge the idea that the public are in any way having their freedom limited or being penalised. There was an NOP poll in 2004 that showed that 93% of the British public already thought there were plenty of opportunities to gamble. Each of these changes and deregularisations to do with machines that have happened subsequently were industry led. To use the concept of demand for the general public around these machines is hardly credible. Now, in terms of whether it is penalising the industry, we have grave concerns if the industry is choosing business models that lead to an increasing percentage of its profits coming from problem gamblers rather than from non-problem gamblers.
Q504 Mrs Mensch: It was, as you yourself have admitted, a tiny increase. A miniscule increase. A barely statistically significant-
James North: From the sample, but one that is potentially an increase from 300,000 to 500,000 people and 4 million in the at-risk category.
Mrs Mensch: Thank you.
Chair: We need to get on to the next panel. I am going to take two last quick questions.
Q505 Philip Davies: Can I just clarify whether you accept the results of the prevalence survey or not, because I am getting mixed messages. Generally you are happy, you accept that their figures are accurate and you do not quibble with them?
Helena Chambers: Yes.
Gareth Wallace: Yes. We would like even more research into-
Philip Davies: No, no, absolutely.
James North: We think it is very professional and cautious. If anything, NatCen probably did too good a job of burying the seriousness of the figures with their statistical professionalism, but we have absolutely no quibbles with the way it is expressed.
Q506 Philip Davies: Mr Wallace, you said you thought GamCare should have more money. Who from?
Gareth Wallace: Well, from the industry.
Q507 Philip Davies: This is the industry that you are wanting cripple with all the changes that you would like to make, there would be no money, all the shops would close, everything would be closed, so where do you want them to get the money from?
Gareth Wallace: An industry that has a gross gambling yield of £5 billion and that gives a voluntary contribution of £5 million, of which £2.5 million is spent by GamCare on problem gamblers. I do not think that is a serious level.
Q508 Philip Davies: So how much do you think they should give? You just said £5 million.
Gareth Wallace: Based on the figures, if they are at the lower end of the estimate, if that is where the Committee are going, if at the lower end of the estimate there are 250,000 problem gamblers in the country and if GamCare’s figure of £8,000 social cost to society for each of those problem gamblers, and yet GamCare’s programme only cost £650 per problem gambler-someone else can do the maths-that sounds a good figure from me for a budget to start tackling this problem seriously.
Q509 Philip Davies: GamCare, Gordon Moody and the Soho Clinic, they are the three main problem gambling charities, and they deal with fewer than 50,000 people. So where are all these problem gamblers?
Gareth Wallace: As I say, I would like more resource so those people can be identified and helped.
Lauri Moyle: Yes, the nature of addiction, particularly around gambling, is quite shameful and I do not think we have moved in society to a place where it is easy for someone who may have an addiction to go to a doctor and tell them. I think some of the research that Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones brought forward in her work at the clinic in Soho was precisely around educating medical professionals about the fact that this thing exists, it is there, and what are the signs to look for when somebody presents.
Q510 Philip Davies: But that could be it, couldn’t it? It could be actually that there has always been the same levels of problem gambling, but it is simply the fact that as the stigma of admitting it reduces, the number of people admitting to it increases. Therefore, there is not an increase in the numbers; there is merely an increase in the number of people who are happier now to say that they do have a problem.
Helena Chambers: One would hope that that was the case, but the prevalence study does not indicate that. The prevalence study indicates that there are 150,000 more problem gamblers now than there were two or three years ago. Could we talk in some more detail about the arrangements for funding research, education and treatment? I am aware that your time is limited and we started late, because we do have some observations on that.
Q511 Philip Davies: Go on, fire away. What are they?
Helena Chambers: We are very concerned to have heard in recent months that the tripartite structure for funding research, education and treatment from the budget raised by the industry has broken down. The arrangements were put in place in about 2008 by the Gambling Commission, or after consultation, and with Government approval, in order to ensure a separation between the industry that raises the funds and the body that spends it. The reason for that is that there is an inherent conflict of interest in some areas between the two.
Q512 Philip Davies: There was half a million pounds being eaten up just in costs. Surely these people who are worried about problem gamblers would much prefer that money went to the front line rather than it was eaten up by unnecessary bureaucrats swallowing up 10% of all the donations.
Gareth Wallace: Absolutely. A compulsory levy would simplify the system enormously.
Helena Chambers: I think that is the line that has been given, but what actually needs to be looked at is the conflict of interest in some areas. The most obvious example is machine gambling. Where the industry is constantly looking for liberalisations in terms of stake prizes and reach-because these machines are profitable-that is also the area where there is evidence of risk and harm. That evidence, as you pointed out, needs to be further unpicked in a British context because, as you say, we can only extrapolate so far from international studies.
There is a conflict of interest, with the industry funding research that might go in directions that would lead to, or could lead to, increased regulation. We are all talking here about what level of evidence would need to be uncovered to show that some restriction on B2 machines, for example, should happen. That needs to be done in a coherent way and looked at as a risk area and the evidence sought. Understandably, the industry is not going to be entirely keen on that sort of thing being done. There needs to be a separation of the two.
Q513 Philip Davies: I understand that point. Can I just come to Mr Webster? You were at the start putting up the National Lottery as a virtuous form of gambling. I was a bit surprised by that because, of course, you can gamble on the National Lottery at 16, whereas you cannot do other forms of gambling until you are 18. Why are you holding up the National Lottery as a paragon of virtue?
Daniel Webster: I would not necessarily suggest it was particularly virtuous. I said it was perhaps less bad. I think there is an inconsistency in the fact that you can gamble on the National Lottery at 16; I think ideally that should be equalised. I would prefer to have an equal age at which you can gamble. I think the National Lottery has strong levels of player protection. That is why I think it is a better form. I think the structure of play makes it less dangerous as well.
Q514 Philip Davies: It is interesting, because you all support the prevalence study, but in the prevalence study, the most popular form of gambling of all is the National Lottery-59% of adults take part in the lottery. Then, after that, the next most popular activities were other lotteries at 25%, so lotteries are a massive part of gambling, yet you are all for those. Scratch cards is 24%, largely on the back of the National Lottery where much of the scratch cards sales come from. You are all for that.
Daniel Webster: I think I would draw a distinction between the National Lottery and scratch cards.
Q515 Philip Davies: It is only much lower down in terms of what people gamble on horse racing, slot machines and other forms of gambling-much lower than all of that kind of thing. According to the prevalence study, back in 1999, 72% of the public took part in gambling. After all of this liberalisation, you think the whole sky has fallen in and in the last survey 73% of the population took part in gambling. With all of this liberalisation in gambling, it has not really led to a huge increase in people gambling, has it, really? In fact, quite the opposite, really. It has made very little difference to the number of people gambling.
Helena Chambers: But there is an increase in problem gambling. Now, you can argue about the margins of statistical significance, but there are a lot more people who are problem gamblers now than there were.
Q516 Philip Davies: Just one final thing-
Helena Chambers: Could I just move back to the funding structures for a minute?
Philip Davies: Could I just ask you one thing first?
Helena Chambers: Yes.
Philip Davies: You have talked a lot about things like slot machines. Now, actually, in the prevalence study, the number of people playing slot machines has gone down.
Helena Chambers: Yes.
Philip Davies: What I do not understand is it seems that you have some kind of bias against certain forms of gambling, but they do not actually have any bearing on the evidence in the prevalence study that you are holding up as being perfectly accurate. You are going on about slot machines; the number of people on slot machines has gone down at the same time as you are claiming the number of problem gamblers has gone up. There is not really a correlation there, is there?
Gareth Wallace: Well, for example, on the figures, there are 1% problem gamblers with National Lottery and 4% on slot machines, so that seems to be over three times more problematic as the National Lottery. I think what Danny said about the breaks of play is right: if you are playing a game once a week that offers a break in play that is considerably greater than every few seconds of putting money in a slot machine. We are not prohibitionist. We feel that if types of gambling offer more problems, as our grass root members have said, then those things should be given greater scrutiny.
Helena Chambers: I think what you are talking about-and you are right to do so- points to these patternings and inconsistencies. What we then need to know is what the increase in problem gambling is to do with, what forms of gambling it is to do with, what patterning it is to do with, what communities it is to do with. We do need more information on that. We are basing our concerns about slot machines on the international evidence that they are associated with higher rates of play, higher rates of problems, and also on the fact that fast, continuous forms of gambling, of which the internet is an obvious example, tend to have more problem features. That, if it is related to high availability, sets the scenario of risk. That is what we are drawing your attention to. If I could just go back to the-
Chair: I am very anxious to wrap this session up. One last sentence.
Helena Chambers: We have suggested a levy as being the only way, or at least the only seeming way, of separating the research, education and treatment agenda and bringing it into the realms of public health. It is very concerning at the moment that the current arrangements are going to elide the funder and the distributor. That needs not to continue. The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, which hitherto set the strategy for how the Responsible Gambling Fund works, should have a key role in deciding how that money is spent. We really do need independent, transparent, accountable structures, which are accountable to public health, working in the public interest.
That is paramount and the only way of doing that is ensuring-we think the levy will be the best way-that the structures have that clear independence. We are actually back to a situation that looks worse than the one in 2008. At the time that the tripartite arrangements were made, the Gambling Commission said, "Without improved arrangements, whether voluntary or statutory, for funding and commissioning research, education and treatment, the Commission will not be in a position to provide effective advice to the Government on all matters related to gambling and, in particular, to discharge fully its third licensing objective in relation to harm reduction." That is the case now. That really needs to be seriously addressed.
Chair: All right. Thank you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Andy McLellan, Chief Executive, GamCare, Anthony Jennens, Chairman, GamCare, Heather Wardle, Research Director, National Centre for Social Research, and Professor Jim Orford, Gambling Specialist, University of Birmingham, gave evidence.
Q517 Chair: Can I welcome our second panel this morning and apologise for keeping you waiting? In particular, I welcome Andy McLellan, the Chief Executive of GamCare, Anthony Jennens, the Chairman of GamCare, Heather Wardle of the National Centre for Social Research, and Professor Jim Orford of the University of Birmingham. I will invite Adrian Sanders to begin.
Q518 Mr Sanders: Heather, as Project Director of the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey, what can you tell us about the number of problem gamblers in the UK?
Heather Wardle: There are two things to consider, I think. Firstly, we have talked a lot about the estimates that we observed within the survey. You will have heard quoted a figure of 0.9% according to one of the instruments that we used. Now, that is the actual estimate that was observed among the people we interviewed. The actual range, which represents the margin of error around that estimate-as you know, with all surveys we take a sample of population, and there is a margin of error-is in the range of 0.8% to 1.2%. It is quite a broad margin of error. That translates to anywhere in the region of 340,000 to-at the upper level-593,000 problem gamblers.
The other thing I would also say, because you touched on it in the previous panel, is that the prevalence survey is a study of people who live in private households in Great Britain. There are a number of people we do not talk to simply because that is the sampling frame that we use. We do not talk to people in prisons. We do not include adolescents. We do not go into student halls of residence. Now, they are all groups who are more likely to have slightly higher rates of problem gambling. Therefore, the estimates in the prevalence survey should be seen within the context of who we interviewed; that is, adults in private households in Great Britain. There are other population groups among whom we think problem gambling rates may be slightly higher.
Q519 Chair: This may be a very ignorant question but how are people gambling in prison?
Heather Wardle: That is a really good question. I think there is a lot of private betting amongst themselves playing poker, and I know GamCare have been doing work within the prisons.
Q520 Chair: Oh, it is internal?
Heather Wardle: Andy might be able to say more about that.
Andy McLellan: There is a piece of work being conducted by Corinne MayChahal at Lancaster University being funded by the RGF, I think. They are looking at prevalence rates in prisons. I think they are roughly estimating the prevalence rate in prison of problem gambling as nearer to 10%.
Q521 Chair: But they do not have any money to gamble with.
Professor Orford: I do not think they are talking about gambling in prison. I think they are talking about people who have got there because they have a gambling problem or have had a gambling problem in the last 12 months.
Anthony Jennens: There is gambling in prison.
Professor Orford: But there is also gambling in prison probably, yes.
Anthony Jennens: The money is tobacco.
Q522 Mr Sanders: Could I ask Professor Orford, as an adviser to the prevalence study, would you disagree with any of the analysis that you have heard so far?
Professor Orford: No. Before I say anything about that, Britain is in the lead in terms of gambling epidemiology. There is no other country in the world that has done three absolutely top-class population surveys; no other country in the world that has done that, so we are in the lead. I had the great privilege to work with Heather and her colleagues-it is a wonderful organisation doing absolutely cutting edge research. My take on the results is that, as I think was said in the earlier panel, this is something that was expected. On the grounds of public health theory, if you make a potentially dangerous activity available to the population you expect the whole population to increase its volume of activity in that area and you expect a higher number of vulnerable people to tip over the edge into problems. It was also expected by all the expert committees. Australia, United States, and even the Budd Committee predicted that there would be an increase, so this was expected. The best evidence is that the rate has increased by 40% or 50%.
I have heard quite a lot about that being only just statistically significant, but the reason it is only just statistically significant is, of course, because of the numbers involved. Being appropriately scientifically cautious, you need to have a really large increase. It needs to be 40% or 50% in order to get to the level of statistical significance. I have also heard people say that the number of problem gamblers we have is small. I would say exactly the opposite, that the number of problem gamblers in Britain is large. It is actually very similar in size to the prevalence of problems associated with class A drugs, heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine. It is very similar, broadly in the area of 500,000. That is a big public health problem, so make no mistake: this is not a small problem.
Q523 Mr Sanders: Out of the, say, 500,000 or so, how many people is that out of? What is the total number of people who are gambling?
Professor Orford: Total number of people gambling?
Mr Sanders: Yes. If you have 500,000, or possibly 500,000plus, problem gamblers, out of how many is that?
Professor Orford: Well, that is out of the whole adult population.
Q524 Mr Sanders: The whole adult population are not gamblers, are they?
Professor Orford: No, that is right. It is out of a smaller proportion of regular gamblers.
Heather Wardle: To give you some kind of context, what we have found in the prevalence survey is that around 32 million adults gamble, and that includes gambling on the National Lottery, having a flutter once a year on the Grand National, right through to the people who gamble every day. There is also another proportion of people, and the estimate is around 54% of adults gamble regularly, by which I mean they are gambling once a month or more often, but again it is on a range of activities. It could just be the lottery; it could be going into casinos on a regular basis. That gives you a sense of what the population numbers are.
Q525 Mr Sanders: What percentage is that, then?
Heather Wardle: Okay, of regular gamblers, so they are the people who are gambling once a month or more, the problem gambling prevalence rate among that group was 1.7%.
Q526 Mr Sanders: Which is statistically quite small. It is a lot of people, but as a percentage it is very small.
Professor Orford: Not in health terms it is not. If this was a public health problem, if we were talking here about cancer or heart disease or even about drug addiction, and it looked as if as a result of some Government legislation we now had an extra 100,000 or 150,000 people, this would have to be taken very seriously indeed.
Q527 Mr Sanders: Why do you think it isn’t?
Professor Orford: Because I think with gambling we are catching up. If this was alcoholism or if this was drug addiction, we would have accepted for a long time that we were dealing with addiction. I think we have had to catch up with gambling, but it is now very well accepted that gambling is a genuine form of addiction. I think we are catching up in that respect, but also there is an enormous amount of complacency around. I have to say some of the things that I think you have been told in your written evidence strike me as extraordinarily complacent.
Q528 Mr Sanders: An example?
Professor Orford: Well, I think people saying, for example, this is a small problem. I have even read people saying that it looks as if the rate is stable. The best evidence is suggesting that it is far from stable, that it has actually gone up significantly over the last three years, as was predicted that it would. I have heard people say that the only people who get gambling problems are people who are thoroughly problematic already and they have other mental health problems. That is very true for some people, although gambling problems bring about further mental health problems in their wake. I think there are a lot of what I would call complacent statements around this field.
Q529 Damian Collins: I would just like to ask the representatives from GamCare about the trend in terms of numbers of gamblers seeking help from your services you are seeing at the moment. Are you seeing a big increase in people coming forward looking for help, looking for assistance?
Andy McLellan: Certainly on the helpline. We operate two things. One is a helpline, which is nationwide, and we are seeing increased numbers of calls coming through. We are seeing increased numbers of people asking for help, advice, either for themselves or on behalf of their partners or families, and very often the people who contact us are the family members. What we see that as an indicator of, though, is not necessarily that the problem is getting bigger but that more people-thank God-are finding out that there is help available. That is I think an important distinction in any data that we are providing-if we are saying more people are coming forward for help, in many ways that is good news. That means more people are finding out about us. More people are being helped to deal with their particular problems.
Similarly, when we turn to our clients who go into treatment, last year, we increased the number we were treating by 25%. The previous year was a 25% increase on the number before. However, last year, we treated around 2,600 clients. Great, but that means there is an awful lot we are still not contacting and whom we or the other organisations that were mentioned earlier-Gordon House or particularly the National Problem Gambling Clinic-are not helping. Between us, we are still only scratching the surface.
If I can add just one point to that, we have to be very careful in stimulating demand, because from our point of view there is no point in marketing our services too heavily if we then do not have the capacity to meet the demand. We are always very carefully managing how far we market, how far we put the message across in a particular area. We do think-and I think we have things that we would like to say either now or later-there are things that we can do to get the messages across. I think that the awareness problem is about, is problem gambling a problem-even GPs quite often do not understand that it is a problem-and is there something you can do about it? How many people are not aware that there are things that you can do about it? It is a twin issue.
Q530 Damian Collins: I would just like to ask Heather Wardle some questions about the research and data we have touched on already. Why is it that certain groups in society have been excluded from the sampling for the survey?
Heather Wardle: Mainly it boils down to resources, because to conduct the kind of research that you need to conduct to go into prisons requires a vast amount more resources, but they were unavailable to do this particular piece of work. There is already a different set of surveys that cover adolescent gambling, and the National Lottery Commission currently funds those. There is a different funding stream for those. It is mainly about the resource issue, and mainly because although the numbers of problem gamblers among those groups may be larger, as a proportion of the population they are quite small. We estimate they are unlikely to have a big effect on the prevalence rates. There is likely to be some increase, but when you take it as an overall population proportion it is not likely to affect the estimates in such a way that we would be thinking that these estimates are not accurate.
Q531 Damian Collins: To return to what you said earlier, you think that the results of your survey in terms of the prevalence of problem gambling, even though there are certain groups in society who were not surveyed, were still a roughly accurate reflection, or do you think they underestimate the extent?
Heather Wardle: They probably marginally underestimate it, but not in a way that I would be so concerned about them not being accurate.
Q532 Damian Collins: Is that a factor that should be considered if the survey was to be conducted again? Should these anomalies be addressed?
Heather Wardle: Yes, I think what you have to think is what is the most appropriate research methods for what you are trying to achieve. If you are just looking to try and monitor a trend over time, keeping with this methodology and accepting that, because it was the same in 1999, it was the same in 2007, that is absolutely fine. If you are looking to think about, "There are vulnerable groups of people and we want to do more work with them", then it would be entirely appropriate to say, "Actually, what we want to do is do more work with adolescents. Let’s put our resources there".
Q533 Damian Collins: How much did the survey cost?
Heather Wardle: The contract value of this survey was £542,000 and some pennies.
Q534 Damian Collins: That is per survey? That is for one?
Heather Wardle: That was for one survey, yes.
Q535 Damian Collins: It is a lot of money. Most people who work in research say that is a big bit of research.
Heather Wardle: Yes, it is.
Q536 Damian Collins: I do not see why there would be any resource issue. With that kind of budget, you could do anything you want, really. People conduct opinion polls at election campaigns for £10,000, with a bigger margin for error but nevertheless it can be done.
Heather Wardle: Quite a large margin of error. Yes, the objectives of this study were to measure among the adult population the participation rates in each different type of gambling activity, the participation rates of gambling overall, measure the prevalence of problem gambling, to look at the socioeconomic characteristics and measure attitudes. The design that we had was appropriate to meet those objectives.
Q537 Damian Collins: Are these face-to-face interviews with individuals?
Heather Wardle: Well, this is the other reason that our design may be comparatively more expensive: we use the best gold standard methods for collecting this data.
Q538 Damian Collins: It is face-to-face interviews?
Heather Wardle: We send interviewers out to households, and then the information is collected from those people using confidential self-completion methods, but the interviewer still visits the households. That is where a lot of the costs are incurred. Obviously, it is a lot cheaper to do things via the telephone, but then you have all sorts of biases even with random digit dialling, people only having mobile phones, and it just introduces extra sources of error.
Q539 Damian Collins: I am sorry to cut you short, I know people want to get in and we are short on time. If we had other research companies here they would probably say the reason they switched from face-to-face interviewing to telephone and internet questionnaires is that they think you get a more accurate response because regardless of how you protect the individual responding, people on the whole tend to want to make a good impression and will say what they think the interviewer wants to hear.
Heather Wardle: That is why we use confidential self-completion methods, exactly for that reason, because if you have an interviewer asking somebody, "How often do you chase your losses? How often do you lie to your family or friends?" there is a massive concern that people will provide socially desirable answers. That is why we only collect our data by asking people to either complete them for themselves on a paper document, which is then sealed, confidentially, away from anybody else in the household and the interviewer, or completing them on a laptop, which is then locked down and nobody else can see it until it is transmitted back to the researchers in the office.
Q540 Damian Collins: You are satisfied that is the best way rather than the other way?
Heather Wardle: That is the internationally best recognised method of doing this.
Q541 Damian Collins: Could I just ask as well, Professor Orford was on the advisory board I think for your last survey. Who else was on that board?
Heather Wardle: We had Professor Mark Griffiths and Dr Rachel Volberg.
Q542 Damian Collins: What is their background?
Heather Wardle: Professor Mark Griffiths, I think, is Europe’s only gambling professor, and he is based at Nottingham Trent University. Rachel Volberg is a gambling researcher and epidemiologist who has the most experience of any gambling academic in running prevalence surveys worldwide.
Professor Orford: From the United States.
Heather Wardle: From the United States, yes.
Q543 Damian Collins: What is their experience in gambling? What do they study in gambling? Are they looking at problem gambling?
Heather Wardle: Rachel focuses very much on prevalence survey work, so her expertise in making sure our design was the best we possibly could was invaluable. Mark’s interests are very broad. He focuses a lot on machine research but increasingly on online gambling and video gaming and so on.
Professor Orford: Adolescent gambling as well.
Q544 Damian Collins: Issues related to problem gambling with interaction with those games, is that what he is studying?
Professor Orford: Yes, although I think that compared with my particular interests, which have been particularly clinical-I am a clinical psychologist by background-Mark is a research psychologist who started off specialising in adolescent gambling. When there was a lot of concern about adolescent gambling some years ago, he was one of the first people to go and interview young people in amusement arcades and in other places. He has built up from there and, as you say, has a very special interest in internet gambling and so on, so we have overlapping interests.
Q545 Damian Collins: I just want to ask this question. My questions about the research, both to this panel and to the previous one, are basically trying to understand how reliable the research is and how it has been put together, not necessarily what the result is. My point is really to understand whether you undervalued or overvalued the level of prevalence gambling. It strikes me, Professor Orford, when you said that the research delivered what you expected it to deliver, that people might question whether the questionnaire had been put together to deliver results that back up your own theories about the prevalence of problem gambling. Most of the advice that was given externally seems to be coming from people who have made that their area of expertise.
Professor Orford: No, I did not mean it was what I expected. I meant that if you are doing a bit of science about the effect of something like a piece of legislation, you are obviously doing research to, in a way, test a hypothesis.
Q546 Damian Collins: But the result was what you expected. That is what you said earlier.
Professor Orford: Well, the results were actually rather more considerable in terms of change than I was expecting. I had argued that with a survey size of 7,000 or 8,000, that was never going to have the statistical power to show what would be in real terms a very significant increase of, say, 50,000 people more-a 25% increase. In fact, it was a 40% or 50% increase according to the two measures, which achieved statistical significance even with the 7,000 or 8,000. I, like many other people, including the Budd Committee that preceded the Act, were expecting that the legislation might produce an increase.
Q547 Damian Collins: Can I just ask something, and this is my final question on this? Some people might say that you might be conflicted as someone who has written extensively about the problems of gambling to be advising on what is supposed to be an independent national survey on attitudes to gambling.
Professor Orford: You could say that. I think that would be a bit unfair. As a clinical psychologist, I would very much hope that the rate of problems would go down, but I certainly have over time acquired the view that, as I was saying earlier, there really is a lot of complacency about the effects of the Act. I think we were talking a lot earlier about supply and demand. I think anybody who works in the drug or alcohol field knows that the rates of problems connected with those substances are partly to do with demand, and partly to do with supply. You cannot really do without those two things. There is no doubt that the 176 recommendations of the Budd Committee, almost all of which were followed as I understand it, were about making gambling more available and accessible to the British population. On any public health theory, you would expect that to lead, if anything, to an increase in problems rather than a decrease.
Heather Wardle: Can I just add something?
Chair: Can I bring Louise in because she has to go shortly?
Heather Wardle: Okay.
Q548 Mrs Mensch: Sorry, I have another debate. Just very briefly, and could I ask you to keep this short, we heard a lot in the earlier session about the influence of gambling on children and whether that should be restricted. In your view, do you think the use of category D machines by children should be restricted? What is your view?
Professor Orford: I think I do. I think you were saying earlier-or people were saying earlier-there is not absolute foolproof evidence of that, but in a way I have always been arguing that to do a study that would produce satisfactory evidence that everybody would be satisfied with, that what young people do at the age of 10 or 12 or 13 or 14 had a result on their adult lives later would be extraordinarily expensive-it would make £500,000 look like a small study. One has to go on what evidence we actually have, and I believe we are about the only jurisdiction that seriously regulates gambling that allows children to play on things that look just like adult machines and, therefore, could be said to be encouraging them to learn how to do that.
Secondly, there is an awful lot of evidence-psychological evidence, not just about gambling-that if you start on things early in life that are potentially dangerous, then you are more at risk of coming into problems with those when you are adult. Certainly, in the alcohol field there is a mass of evidence that suggests that.
Andy McLellan: Can I just add just as briefly as I can, I think GamCare’s stance on that and on most things is that we are very, very concerned to do something now to help the situation. We like to work with-and we think we should work with-what is likely to happen. Category D machines exist. If they did not exist, there would probably be other things that young kids would be enticed into using and have the opportunity of gambling on. The real answer is education. The real answer is to talk to kids; to talk to their parents. One of the most telling pieces of research that we found when we were looking at our own education programme that we have developed was that whereas the vast majority of parents will advise their kids about drink and will advise their kids about drugs, only 5% of parents perceive gambling as a risky activity that they should set some rules for. I think the answer actually is in a proper, thought-through education prevention strategy. The DfE at the moment is consulting on PSHE-personal, social and health education. Gambling is not mentioned in that. We are responding to that to recommend that it should be.
Anthony Jennens: It absolutely is step one. As Mr Blair said, "Education, education, education". That is where we start.
Q549 Philip Davies: Professor Orford, I think my colleague Damian was about to strike on a rich seam before he cut himself short. He is far more polite than I am. You are a fanatic, aren’t you? You are an anti-gambling fanatic, aren’t you?
Professor Orford: No, my views are actually very much in line with the majority views of the British population. We asked people about their attitudes in the last survey and the survey before. The percentage of people who think that there are too many opportunities for gambling nowadays outnumber those who think the opposite by 12:1. The proportion who think that gambling is, on balance, good for society are outnumbered by those who think the opposite by 4:1. I was very surprised by those views, I really was, because I am no more fanatical than the rest of Britain.
Q550 Chair: 73% of the population gamble, so are you saying the vast majority of these are doing so thinking, "I should not be doing this, it is extremely damaging for me"?
Heather Wardle: The difference in definition is that a lot of people who gamble on things like the lottery do not recognise that as a gambling activity. People who play bingo, if you say to them, "How do you feel about your gambling behaviour?" they go, "Well, I don’t gamble, I play bingo". There is a big difference in attitudes and perceptions of what people categorise as gambling.
Q551 Chair: Doesn’t that undermine a lot of your research if everybody disagrees about what is gambling?
Heather Wardle: That is why we have to be very careful about how we present the wording of our questions and how we talk to people about things. That is why we never say, "Please tell me about all the gambling problems that you have had". We just say, "Please look at these things and tell me how often they have occurred to you". It will use quite anodyne language. But you are absolutely right, we have to be very cautious of that when we are designing our surveys.
Q552 Philip Davies: Professor, you said that your views were in line with the majority of the British public. Maybe in your ivory tower in academia they may be, but let me just run a few of these past you because these are from your book.
Professor Orford: Okay.
Philip Davies: "UK-based gambling internet sites should be made illegal. All gambling advertising should be phased out over a period of a few years. A national campaign should be mounted to oppose the further expansion of gambling. Consideration should be given to phasing out all commercial gambling over a period of a few years with all gambling run under Government franchise like the National Lottery and all profits going to good causes." You are the Dennis Skinner of the gambling world, aren’t you? You want to nationalise the lot.
Professor Orford: I am honoured. I am honoured you have read my book so carefully but, of course, what you are doing, which I am afraid is human nature, is quoting out of context. You are quoting from almost the very last page of my book. In the last chapter, what I said was we should be having much more of a public debate in Britain about the future of gambling.
Q553 Philip Davies: It says, "My ideas are listed in this table" that I have just quoted from.
Professor Orford: I believe we are not having-
Philip Davies: They are not your ideas?
Professor Orford: Yes. What I said in that last chapter was we should be having a debate. We should put everything on the table, which we have not done in the past. We certainly did not do it in the lead-up to the 2005 Act. You will also see in that list, which you have not quoted, a number of things that I think are much less radical than that.
Q554 Philip Davies: They are all anti-gambling, aren’t they, in the list? There is no "Let’s have an expansion of gambling"-
Professor Orford: No, they are all things-
Q555 Philip Davies: Which of these do you agree with and which do you disagree with?
Professor Orford: They are all things that happen somewhere in the world at the moment.
Philip Davies: Which do you agree with and which do you disagree with?
Professor Orford: That is not the point. My point I was making-
Philip Davies: It is now. I am asking you which of those things that you have put in there, which are now just a subject for debate, which of those do you agree with and which do you disagree with?
Professor Orford: Read out the first-rather than read out the last four, read out the first two.
Philip Davies: There are 14 here.
Professor Orford: Can you remind me what the first two were?
Q556 Philip Davies: Out of the four I have just read out, do you agree with those or not?
Professor Orford: Just say it again what the four were.
Philip Davies: "UK-based gambling internet sites should be made illegal."
Professor Orford: Well, they have only just been made legal and Britain rushed-
Philip Davies: So that is a yes.
Chair: Hold on, Philip, let him answer.
Professor Orford: We rushed in. In the 2005 Act, we rushed in, which other countries did not do. The United States did not rush into it. Australia has not rushed into it in the same way. We rushed into, without thought-in my view-legalising Britishbased internet gambling sites. My argument is that having got them I do not think I am necessarily in favour of completely abolishing them now, which I think would be almost impossible anyway, but I think we should be having a debate about it.
Q557 Philip Davies: "All gambling advertising should be phased out." Do you agree with that or disagree?
Professor Orford: No, no, but I think it should be debated. I do think there was quite a bit of discussion about advertising earlier. Again, it is this question of evidence. There is a lot of evidence now appearing in the alcohol field that it does make a difference. Young people who are more exposed to alcohol advertising, who actually have looked at alcohol advertising, are more likely to be binge drinkers.
Q558 Philip Davies: "A national campaign should be mounted to oppose the further expansion of gambling." You agree with that?
Professor Orford: Yes, I do.
Q559 Philip Davies: "All commercial gambling over a period of a few years should be phased out."
Professor Orford: No, I think it is very unlikely Britain will do that.
Philip Davies: I did not ask if it was likely, I asked if you believe it or not.
Professor Orford: No, but being a practical person as well I do not-
Philip Davies: In theory you do, but in practice you do not?
Professor Orford: Well, the Canadians did it and several Scandinavian countries did it, so it is by no means unknown. That is the way we run the National Lottery. If Britain was starting off and saying, "What would be sensible for Britain to do about gambling?" you might say that you would run British gambling under a licence in the way that we run the National Lottery. It is for debate. I am just saying we should have a debate and we have not had the debate we should be having is my argument.
Q560 Philip Davies: Heather, can I finally ask you do you think it lends credibility to your operation when you have as your adviser somebody who is clearly so fanatically partisan on one side of the argument? Do you not think that that in some respects actually calls into question some of the research?
Heather Wardle: I absolutely do not, because I know the processes and the credibility that we have in place when we conduct a piece of research. Now, the National Centre for Social Research is widely acknowledged as being the leading independent research institute in the UK providing robust evidence. We are very much focused on what the evidence tells us and what the evidence does not tell us. I have wide and great respect for Jim. I am also aware of his viewpoints and we have very engaging conversations about this. That is not to say that Jim’s viewpoints or his thoughts influence our research in any negative way whatsoever.
Equally, we have a wide stakeholder body that includes lots of industry members. Now, we had to go and talk to all of those industry members about the questionnaire, be accountable to them and engage with them. The argument could equally be put on the other foot to say, "Well, having had that stakeholder engagement, is that going to bias results?" My job is to sit in the middle and to balance all of these things up and to come up with the best piece of research that we could. I honestly believe we have done that and I think this insinuation that Professor Orford’s involvement in some way undermines the research is deeply unfair.
Andy McLellan: Could I add just one thing? The thing that worries me about the prevalence study is I think that, as Professor Orford said, we have had some good material coming through over a number of years, which many other countries do not have. The main concern I have is that I am not sure whether we are going to have it in the future. The DCMS pulled the funding that it was giving to the Gambling Commission for funding the prevalence study. There is now concern, and I think they are looking at exactly how best to continue that. I think it is important that we do have reliable information, and at this stage we are not clear that it is actually going to continue in the same form and that would be a shame.
Q561 Chair: Can I just ask-probably Heather Wardle is the right person-the 0.6% to 0.9%, which really is the crux of this, on the one hand, you have I think Professor Orford saying, "This is a 50% rise, massive evidence that the problem is increasing", and then you have the industry saying, "This is outside the statistically significant margin. We should ignore it completely. It does not suggest there is any increase at all". As a professional, what is your view about how significant that figure is?
Heather Wardle: Okay. Our view is very much as we reported it. That increase is just over the standard threshold of statistical significance, which means that we are 95% certain it is a real increase. There is a 5% chance that it is not and, of course, as we have heard, that 5% chance comes from the fact that we are drawing a sample; we are not talking to everybody in the population; there is a chance that just because the sample that we drew in 2010 might have been different in some way from previous ones that is influencing results.
On the balance of probability, the increase is real and likely, and it makes a lot of sense in the context of some of the other findings in the research; for example, the fact that we now have more regular gamblers than we had before. We are seeing regular gamblers gambling on more activities and we are seeing attitudes move in a more positive direction. In that kind of context it all seems plausible. But because of that uncertainty and because we are, as you mentioned, Damian, dealing with an absolute change in numbers between survey years of 17 people, it makes this analysis very sensitive to potential changes in sampling error. Because of all of those things, we recommended that some caution be applied to interpreting these, which unfortunately has led to the polarisation of viewpoints between different actors. I can only sympathise with your role in trying to untangle all of this.
Anthony Jennens: Can I make a comment, Chair?
Chair: Yes, of course.
Anthony Jennens: We have this thing of, is it 500,000, is it 300,000, let’s take a middle figure and let’s say 400,000. Does it really matter which it is? We have 400,000 problem gamblers. The problem is, what are we going to do about it?
Q562 Chair: That is true, but actually it does matter if it is going up.
Anthony Jennens: It does indeed. That just makes it more urgent that we do something about it.
Q563 Chair: That is something that we should worry about. If there is a rise of 0.6% to 0.9% that is a significant increase that we should be concerned about.
Anthony Jennens: The number that does matter is the tiny number who are getting the help they need.
Chair: Well, I agree with that, too, but we-
Anthony Jennens: It is hugely important that all those who need it get it.
Q564 Chair: We need to establish whether or not the problem is increasing and, if so, why that is increasing. 95% suggests to me that you are pretty close to the view that there is an increasing problem.
Anthony Jennens: I think it would be reasonable to accept on the evidence there is that there is some increase. How large it is or how small it is does not really hugely matter. What matters is what we do about it.
Chair: All right, I understand that view.
Q565 Steve Rotheram: You will be pleased to know that I will not be quoting anybody out of context. Given the time constraints, I will try to cobble these two questions together. How well regulated is the online gaming sector at the moment, and do you think that the proposed changes to the Gambling Act, i.e. changing regulation to a point of consumption basis, will help to control problem gambling online?
Andy McLellan: I think certainly the intention that they had with the 2005 Act of bringing online gambling under regulation was a sensible intention. The real problem has been that the misalignment between the social policy and the fiscal policy drove everybody overseas, so the majority of people playing online in this country may well not be aware of it, but are not playing on sites that are regulated by the Gambling Commission. They are playing on sites that are licensed elsewhere, whether it be Gibraltar, Antigua or wherever.
I think the Government’s intention to remedy that is probably laudable, but it requires primary legislation, so it is not going to happen. It is not going to happen for a while, certainly not for a number of years. From our perspective, I think the more important thing is to do more work with the existing overseas operators and get their standards of social responsibility up. We have a certification scheme that we operate that is gradually getting more and more take-up from online operators. That means that if somebody is playing on an online site and they see the GamCare certification logo, that will give them reassurance that that site is operating to certain standards in terms of age verification, in terms of player protection. I think in the short term that probably is more likely to be beneficial for the British public.
Q566 Chair: Can I turn to the other villain of the piece now, which we touched on in the last session, FOBTs, which seem to be regarded as by far the most dangerous form of gambling, certainly by some. Is that your view and is there evidence to bear that out?
Anthony Jennens: We do not make the law, we just try and tidy up the mess that there is afterwards. That is our job. I am not going to get into a debate where we say they are good or bad. What we do know is that everybody who gambles who gets into trouble gambles on many different forms of gambling. That is reasonably established. There is nobody who is an exclusive FOBT player who does not do other forms of gambling.
There is also a question of "realpolitik" here. The FOBTs now account for something like 60% of the bookies’ profits. The levy-not the levy on social responsibility; the horseracing and betting levy-would not be sustainable according to the bookies if FOBTs were taken away. If that were not sustainable, 80,000 people would be out of work, which is totally unacceptable. Nobody is going to do anything about it, so it would possibly be a waste of time to focus too much attention on whether FOBTs are good or bad. The arguments put forward by the likes of Harriet Harman and David Lammy about clustering of FOBTs is largely an aesthetic argument saying that it ruins the high street. They say that Tottenham looks horrible and so on and so forth because you have all this clustering, which is because of the law that requires you only have four machines per premises.
Q567 Chair: I do not particularly want to go down a clustering argument at this moment. I want to concentrate on whether or not you believe that FOBTs are more dangerous than other forms of gambling if you are potentially a problem gambler.
Anthony Jennens: I do not think that there is an answer to that. I do not think there is adequate evidence to say FOBTs are definitely more dangerous than any other form of gambling because-
Q568 Chair: You heard the evidence from the last panel who clearly thought they were.
Anthony Jennens: Because they are played in conjunction with so many other forms of machine. You must also remember that I find myself in a slightly invidious position, as the people who contribute the most to enable GamCare to deliver its services are the people who have the greatest interest in FOBTs.
Q569 Chair: That presumably would not in any way influence your views or your evidence to this Committee.
Anthony Jennens: Of course not.
Professor Orford: It is very honest. It is very honest of Anthony to admit to such a conflict of interest. I must say I think I would put it more strongly about FOBTs. I would not say it was the most dangerous form of gambling, but I am quite clear that different forms of gambling are differentially dangerous. Some are much more dangerous than others. I think the evidence coming from a number of different directions-I think someone on the earlier panel referred to it as triangulation of evidence-is that FOBTs are up among the most dangerous forms. In a way, if you think about it, what happened with FOBTs is that what used to be confined to the tables in casinos have come into the high street, so you can play roulette by just walking off a high street through a door. Anybody who has played roulette knows how exciting it is. It is fast. You can bet again very quickly. You can bet short, you can bet long, you can raise your stakes. There are numerous near misses that make you think that next time red will come up, so it is very exciting. Most people who have played roulette know that this is something they could easily get hooked on.
We have now brought that into the high street. My understanding was that it was brought in really by, in effect, circumventing the law. It was certainly brought in without proper consultation and it is now up amongst, I think, the most serious form, the most dangerous forms of gambling. I would have thought it was appropriate to think of doing something about it. Not for me to say what.
Andy McLellan: First of all, I am known for being fairly robust in my dealings with the industry and I am not always that popular with them. The FOBT position is that it is certainly true that more and more of our callers and more and more of our clients mention FOBTs as being a part, and a significant part, of their gambling pattern, but it is still part of a pattern that involves other things. What we do not know is whether if the FOBT had not been there it would have been replaced by something else. Certainly, addictive gamblers, problem gamblers, are attracted by innovation as well, by whatever the latest thing is, so there is an element of that involved, although FOBTs are now fairly established.
I think the other thing I would say is that again-and I am repeating a point I made earlier-the important point is to make sure that wherever any type of gambling is available, the staff controlling that gambling are aware of the risks associated with it and take player protection seriously. I think we have quite a lot of evidence that most bookies do that, but there is a limit on what they can do. One of the things you were talking about earlier was selfexclusion. There is a real limit on, "I can self-exclude from one but I can go in next door". We have a working group at the moment, we are working with some parts of the industry and Salford University to try and look at a way of introducing a crossoperator selfexclusion scheme. But, of course, you run up against things to do with data, confidentiality, customer data and so on and so forth, but there are ways round it, so we are looking at doing that. There are ways we can help.
Q570 Chair: But not just cross-operator, that could be expanded across all forms of gambling so that I could say, "I am a problem gambler. I am going to declare myself as such and as a result every casino, every betting shop, every bingo hall in the country knows, do not let me in".
Andy McLellan: One of the things that we were approached to do this was because GamCare can be seen as an independent broker.
Q571 Chair: But these are possible?
Andy McLellan: It should be possible. There are considerable legal issues and, as I was saying, matters of commercial confidentiality, customer confidentiality, not forgetting that all of our operators are competing with one another for those customers as well. But these obstacles should be superable if we can get the betting operators to function on the social responsibility angle, which is very important to them in terms of their reputation.
Heather Wardle: Just to echo some of the things that Andy has just said, one of the really important findings that emerges from the prevalence survey is that although people tend to focus-and you will have probably heard this fact quoted-on the fact that of those who play B2 machines around 8% or 9% are problem gamblers, that is treating them as if they are this sort of silobased person who does not do anything else. What we actually know is that the vast majority of problem gamblers take part in a range of activities and a range of activities regularly. From our data, what we saw was that of people who regularly take part in nine or more activities, 28% of those were problem gamblers. There is the linking up of selfexclusion, but if we could get every sector, every operator, on the same page in terms of prevention measures and responsible gambling strategies, that is going to be much more effective, because you have a much greater chance of interacting with those people who most need protection and most need help.
Q572 Chair: Can I just finally turn particularly to GamCare? You had the rather striking statistic quoted in the first panel about £5 million out of a £5 billion industry being put into funding research, education and treatment. As one of the beneficiaries, do you think the industry is doing enough?
Anthony Jennens: I think the industry at the present moment is doing a pretty good job and I am very much hoping that the new arrangements that do bind us-as I think Helen who is sitting here expressed concerns-more closely to the industry is a good, rather than a bad, thing. To define, and to talk about, the gambling industry is to talk about many diverse and opposed groups. There is not a gambling industry. One of the things that most mucked up the Bill was the fact that they were all pulling everybody on John Greenway’s Committee this way and that, and some of the time they were listening.
I attended it all, as a witness twice, and you could see the pendulum swinging in favour of casinos, against casinos, and so on and so forth. You have the same problem here. Everybody has a vested interest that they are trying to plug. Until the industry comes together, which they may be now, together with business and sport and leisure and us, together with the Soho Clinic and Gordon Moody, and we say we have all been doing this-in my case for 16 years and Jim Orford for even longer-we know reasonably what we are doing, let’s put together a package that we can then bring to Government and say, "This is okay, now stop hiding behind problem gambling" because everything hides behind problem gambling.
Jeremy Hunt appeared before your Committee the other day and he said, "Well, we cannot do anything about anything until we have solved problem gambling". Well, you may as well say we cannot do anything about anything until the north wind stops blowing. Harvard came up with a study that said you have 40% of hard-core gamblers-forget about it, they are going to stay there. The 60% you can do something about and you can prevent them joining the 40% and suchlike. There is a large number of people we can help. We are not doing it, because we are deliberately putting it off. My big bugbear there is that we are the only country in the English-speaking world that does not have a helpline number up on all gambling advertising. If you want more people to present to get help, then tell them how to do it.
Q573 Chair: There is no shortage of helpline numbers around.
Anthony Jennens: Do you ever see a helpline number on television? No.
Q574 Chair: No, I was thinking of when we were visiting gambling-
Anthony Jennens: Do you see it round a football stadium? No, you see it only in places where you gamble; only there.
Andy McLellan: As you say, it is very available in gambling premises. It is the gambler who is in the gambling premises. We are often contacted for help by the gambler’s partner. The gambler’s partner is a non-gambler. The gambler’s partner, therefore, does not see the helpline and is not aware of that help. Put that number on the advert in the tube, put that number on the advert on football and so on and so forth, then you are reaching a different audience and people who can help their family.
Can I also add one other thing if I may? Conscious that I was following the faith groups, I was reading my Cardinal Newman last night and came across one of my favourite quotes: "Nothing would be done at all if one waited until one could do it so well that no one could find fault with it". I think there has been that problem. GamCare has no objection and, indeed, wants research and evaluation. However, we seem to have been caught in a system where until you know everything you assume you know nothing. We know enough to know that some things that we are doing will work. If we do some action research, particularly on education, as you are doing things to help people you will be able to improve that as well.
Q575 Chair: Just tell us exactly what is it that you think you could be doing now that you are not doing.
Andy McLellan: At the moment, our network of treatment covers around 75% of Great Britain. We could, within a year, expand that through commissioning from other partners to cover 95%. At the moment, hardly anywhere in Wales has access to face-to-face counselling. I have forgotten the details, but I think in three of your constituencies there is no face-to-face counselling.
We could do that. We could introduce an education programme in three areas, which we have already worked up, that would involve teachers, parents and groups of kids in schools to trial and pilot materials for bringing education about gambling into schools and into outofschool activity as well. We could start doing that probably from the Easter term in three areas, which would then give us the basis for evaluating what works and what does not, which would give us a basis for expanding things throughout the whole country. Those are two things.
Q576 Chair: It is lack of money that is stopping you doing it?
Andy McLellan: On those, it is lack of money.
Q577 Chair: When Mr McLellan says the industry is doing very well, actually it is not doing well enough to allow you to do what you think is necessary.
Anthony Jennens: It is doing well in that it is raising quite a lot of money and we will raise more money this year than was originally anticipated, despite the difficulties in the tearing down of the tripartite structure. I think that they have finally recognised-maybe "finally" is the wrong word, but they have recognised-that it is very much in their interests to get this right, together with the rest of us to get it right, because the levy would be a disaster.
Q578 Chair: A levy would be a disaster?
Anthony Jennens: In my opinion.
Q579 Chair: Why would a levy be a disaster?
Anthony Jennens: Because Government does not put things together for £5 million. It is more like £50 million or £100 million it will cost. You will have a whole army of bureaucrats. Most of the people who know anything about the subject will become uninterested because they really just do not want to be minor civil servants. Also, you will not get patients coming in because it is Government run and, I regret to tell you, people do not trust Government and they certainly will not trust Government with something as confidential as something that they want to keep desperately secret, which is the fact that they are a problem gambler.
Q580 Chair: But arguably would they not feel that they trust the industry even less?
Anthony Jennens: They are not coming to the industry.
Q581 Chair: It is either Government funded or it is industry funded.
Anthony Jennens: Oh, it is industry funded, yes.
Q582 Chair: You could argue if it were Government funded they are not coming to the Government, it is just the Government who are funding it.
Anthony Jennens: Well, I am not quite sure that people would see it like that. People were very reluctant to put confidential information on the NHS thing, which went down to £37 billion or whatever it was. I am not suggesting that the Government would spend £37 billion on problem gambling, but you never know.
Q583 Chair: Given the time, we had better conclude. Professor Orford, a last quick word please.
Professor Orford: A very quick final word. Where is the Department of Health in all this? I know this is DCMS and it is not a Department of Health Committee, but this is to me a public health issue. A lot of the discussion this morning was really about health issues. I would have thought Government really at least ought to be having a twin, joinedup Culture, Media and Sport and Health approach to this, and I do not see the Department of Health involved in this at all. I do not know why. They have other things to do, I am sure.
Chair: Yes, they probably have a few things to do. Thank you.