Vaughan Gething AM, Minister for Health and Social Services
I was pleased to introduce the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report in the Senedd in February and welcomed his initial recommendations for a public health approach to deal with gambling, that seeks to address the inequity of harm. In 2016, around 25,000 people self-reported as having a problem with gambling in Wales and a further 100,000 people are estimated to be at risk of problem gambling (Levels of Problem Gambling in Wales, 2016). In addition, around 450,000 of 11-16 years olds (14% of that age group) reported gambling in the past week in the UK (Young People and Gambling report, Gambling Commission 2018).
Following publication of this report we have been working across portfolios to identify the actions that we can take to reduce gambling-related harm and the impact it has on health and wider society. Our work here is in line with the preventative approach taken in our national strategy, Prosperity for All and the objective to help and support everyone to live healthy, prosperous and rewarding lives.
In order to inform future action in this area, we need to understand more about gambling behaviours and the interrelationship with other public health concerns. Questions on gambling have been asked within our school-aged children survey during 2017/18 and will be included in the National Survey in 2020-21. This will enable us to analyse gambling behaviours against other public health issues such as alcohol consumption and mental health.
We have been glad to work with researchers and academics with an interest in gambling-related harm across Wales, through a Cardiff University seminar earlier this year and by promoting the work Swansea University will be undertaking to explore attitudes to gambling in ex-service personnel.
Prevention is key to reducing gambling-related harm and we are exploring how existing channels can be used to raise awareness. There is a clear risk to our younger generation who are exposed to gambling-type behaviours from an early age through online gaming and high levels of advertisements accessed via a range of media channels. Advice to parents and carers has already been issued via the Welsh Government’s Hwb and earlier this year, I wrote jointly with the then Leader of the House to the Advertising Standards Authority to highlight our concerns about the proliferation of gambling advertising on television and online. Financial education will be a key element within the new curriculum, offering robust provision to help learners develop their financial skills, including the management of money. We have issued.
The concentration of gambling venues, particularly the more deprived communities across Wales, is a recognised concern. The Welsh Government will consider the findings of a joint report on Gambling and Public Health by Public Health Wales (PHW) and Bangor University to help inform local and national actions to prevent gambling related harms across Wales. This may include whether we are able to use proposed changes to the planning system (Welsh Government consultation on the consolidation of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (UCO) and Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (GPDO). 31 May 2018) to address any ‘over-concentration’ of betting offices.
General awareness that people suffering from gambling-related harm can consult their GP for advice and recommendations for appropriate support needs to be improved as does knowledge among primary care providers that such support services exist. Discussions are ongoing with PHW as to how problem gambling can be integrated into brief intervention training for primary care workers in Wales. We will also work with the third sector to address the location and availability of dedicated treatment services for problem gamblers. In January, the Welsh Government will co-host a roundtable discussion with the Gambling Commission to bring together key stakeholders to consider this issue as well as inform future action by both the Welsh Government and the Gambling Commission in Wales.
We have decided not to use the Welsh Minister’s powers in relation to fixed odds betting terminals before the UK government introduce changes to the maximum stake for these machines due to the very limited impact that we could achieve within the timescales. I wrote to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to express my disappointment over the initial delay to the implementation of that policy given the wide-ranging impacts that will be prolonged by such a decision. I am pleased that the changes will now be implemented by April 2019 and that the gambling industry are also responding to calls for action, with the recent announcement by some of the largest online companies to voluntarily stop adverts during the broadcasting of live sports events. We will continue to urge the UK government to maximise the various options available to address the issue of problematic gambling.
Working in partnership with third sector providers, we recognise that there is currently some good work going on in Wales but more still needs to be done. We will therefore continue to do what we can do within this government to tackle gambling-related harm, bearing in mind the limitations on the powers we have.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.