Association of British Bookmakers defends Code after academic’s criticism

Association of British Bookmakers defends Code after academic’s criticism

Thursday, December 11, 2014 Totally Gaming

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) has defended its Code for Responsible Gaming after criticism from a leading academic opponent of gambling machines.

Dr Charles Livingstone, a senior lecturer in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Melbourne’s Monash University, published a report this week in which he described the measures introduced by the Code as of “low to very low potential efficacy”.

In his review of the Code, Dr Livingstone, a long-standing opponent of the gambling industry who has a particular interest in the public health impact of gambling machines, paid particular concern to elements concerning self-regulation and the continuing availability of funds.

The Code was introduced in September 2013, with the ABB saying “it builds on current best practice and implements a range of new player protection measures”. The ABB believes it has been a success following the results of a report by Professor Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University, and it will now consult the Responsible Gambling Trust’s fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) study, published at the end of November, to see how it can better serve customers.

“The ABB’s Code for Responsible Gambling was introduced in 2013 and is constantly subject to evaluation and assessment, including a recent independent review by Professor Griffiths." an ABB spokesman told "In addition, just recently the first ever research into gaming machines in betting shops was published, and we will be reviewing all the information and date in that to develop the Code further.”

The Code focuses on areas such as the dissemination of information on responsible gambling, allowing customers to set themselves time and cash limits, training staff to recognise problem gambling and undertaking more consistent central analysis of data.

Professor Griffiths’ report found that publicity surrounding limit-setting was working and that the vast majority of customers were sticking to their pre-set allowances. It also found that most FOBT play was short-lasting and the mean average loss was £7.

However, Dr Livingstone does not believe the Code is serving gambling customers effectively. He said that in order to limit expenditure, the Code would require “significant modification” to be effective. He pointed out that the removal of ATM cash withdrawal machines from betting shops was “undermined by the availability of cash or credit form other sources”.

Livingstone also hit out at Professor Griffiths’ study, claiming that the evaluation should have been undertaken by independent researchers instead of someone who was involved with the design of the Code. He also went on to state that the review “appears to be almost unfailingly positive, in some cases in contrast to the material presented”.

Livingstone added that the report “represents an apparent attempt to demonstrate adherence to responsible gambling practices that lack an evidence base and are generally favoured by the industry for the purpose of achieving political support for continued self-regulation”.

A spokesperson for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling added: “This illustrates the problems with industry funded research. The evaluation by Mark Griffiths is not objective and its methodology is flawed. The bookmakers have marked their own homework by commissioning a complicit academic and continue to control the research agenda by funding and running the Responsible Gambling Trust.

“It is not surprising that the recent research on FOBTs has asked the wrong questions. The Government cannot continue to be so naïve in trusting everything the bookmakers produce as supposed evidence.”


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