Lee Willows, YGAM: Education is central to gambling reform 

Lee Willows, Chief Executive of educational charity The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM), said that the education sector must be further engaged in the regulatory makeup of the gambling sector. 

Willows made his statement reflecting on the significant events of last week, following three separate industry oversight reports being published by the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG); The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Lords Select Committee on gambling.

YGAM welcomed the broad input of the reports, which Willows underlined as a sign of progress in the governance of gambling, as ‘inclusion would have been unheard of five-years ago.’

Helping regulatory stakeholders, YGAM provided feedback from its courses submitted by teachers, practitioners and students, in which the charity stated that there is an ‘enormous demand for information on gambling and gaming’.

“Whilst it was pleasing to see education feature in all three reports, the voices of the professionals working in that sector should also be taken into consideration,” said Willows. “We must continue to be guided by professionals working in the education sector to deliver effective prevention programmes to young people.”

Leading YGAM, Willows approves of the actions taken to appease immediate concerns related to the ‘blurred lines between gaming and gambling’. 

YGAM, said Willows, agrees with DCMS Select Committee assessment that Loot Boxes contain an element of chance that should not be sold to children and which conditions gambling habits from an early age.

He added: “Building on our discussions with DCMS we look forward to contributing to the government’s call to action on loot boxes which will hopefully lead to consideration of an appropriate regulatory intervention.”

Further concerns were conveyed in relation to gambling advertising, with educational stakeholders pointing to the dominance of betting advertising in ‘promotional spaces at most sporting events’.

On advertising, Willows stated that concerns “should be addressed by evidence-based analysis that puts the safety of young people first and we look forward to contributing to this debate”. 

Last week’s high-profile developments saw industry observers point towards an imminent overhaul as to how the UK gambling industry is regulated, as the Lords Committee urged the government to implement a regime that places consumer well being before industry profits. 

Observing reactions, Willows shared his concerns that a ‘desire to affect structural change’ or radically change direction may result in valuable insight being lost from the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling-Related Harms.

To underline this point, Willows highlighted the development of YGAM as an educational charity formed under the remit of the strategy.

He said: “When the Gambling Commission launched the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling-Related Harms, there was real hope for change and there has been some positive change; yes more can be done and some actions need to move in a more expedient manner, but change does take time.”

“As a prevention charity we will continue to focus on the delivery of education, building and sharing insight and demonstrating impact. This is a crucial period for the future of this sector and everyone at YGAM looks forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholder groups to ensure all young and vulnerable people are safe from gaming and gambling-related harms.”

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