the Responsible  Gambling Trust (RGT)April 2012 saw the launch of the new body – the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT), which replaces the old Responsible Gambling Fund (RGF).  The RGT takes over responsibility for disbursing the funds for gambling treatment and research which are voluntarily donated by the gambling industry. This change has been controversial and Gambling Watch UK has grave concerns about it.  Previously, gambling industry representation on the RGF was limited, but now half the trustees of RGT will be representatives of different parts of the gambling industry.  Although another body – the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board – will be setting the framework within which the RGT will operate, there must still be large question marks about how this will operate in practice.

Research and treatment needs to be totally independent of the interests of those benefiting financially from the sale of a potentially dangerous commodity – a principle which is accepted with little question in other fields such as the alcoholic beverages field. Whereas RGF was an independent body, RGT, is most definitely not. By its own admission it is ‘industry-led ‘.

The RGT launch statement gave some important clues about the position it is likely to take. For a start, the launch event was held at the Aspers  Casino Westfield Stratford City, a choice of venue which hardly inspires confidence that the new body is going to be objective and neutral. Indeed a quote from the RGT Chief Executive makes that abundantly clear. The new body he said would ‘aim to demonstrate that legitimate business growth and job creation is balanced with social protection of the weak and vulnerable in society ’. Quite apart from the patronising assumption that people with gambling problems are ‘weak and vulnerable’, this statement contains another core assumption which underlies the expansionist aims of the gambling industry and the way this has been enabled since the Gambling Act of 2005. That assumption, which Gambling Watch UK questions, is that gambling in Britain can be allowed to continue to expand, whilst the harm associated with gambling is contained. This may be a bad case of industry and government wanting to have their cake and eat it. The launch statement also proudly announced a target of £6 million for the funds to be raised by the gambling industry for research and treatment in 2012/13. This probably represents in the region of 0.1% of British gambling industry profits. If the British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010 estimate of adult problem gambling prevalence is used as a guide, the target should probably be 5 to 10 times higher.

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It seems to me the Gambling industry are watching their own backs but with a small sympathetic donation and interest in their cause in a fast growing national problem they can redeem their actions.

james kilby
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