Lynne Neagle MS, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing
In December 2020 the Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language established a Task and Finish Group on Gambling Related Harm to look into the issues around problem gambling and provide advice to the Chief Medical Officer and Welsh Ministers on the actions that could be taken to address the harms from gambling and support those affected in Wales.
The Group’s objectives were to:
- Review, monitor and support the implementation of the recommendations made by the Chief Medical Officer in his 2016/17 annual report ‘Gambling with our Health’ and advise on where further actions are to be taken.
- Review existing gambling treatment services and advise on the structure of future services and support for those affected by problem gambling in Wales.
- Advise on Wales’ position in relation to the UK Government’s comprehensive Review of the Gambling Act 2005.
The Task and Finish Group, made up of key third sector stakeholders, clinicians, academics and other professionals in the field of gambling related harm, met four times over the course of 2021/22 and during its meetings considered a number of areas in relation to gambling and gambling related harm. In addition to the discussions on gambling treatment services, the UK Government Review of the Gambling Act 2005 and the Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report, the Task and Finish Group also looked more broadly at education, early intervention and prevention, planning, data collection and evidence based systems, raising awareness of gambling harms to reduce stigma and support for affected others.
In considering education and the adoption of a public health approach to gambling related harm, the task and finish group heard from an expert in Australia. In Australia gambling related harm is viewed as a public health issue with treatment services integrated within the public health model. Their system has increasingly been moving away from the narrative of responsible and safer gambling and more towards helping people understand the ways in which the gambling industry market their products and the addictive and harmful nature of them. Public health campaigns conducted in Australia have highlighted the harmful effects of gambling and are making a difference in reducing the stigma and shame associated with problem gambling.
In March 2021 the Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language responded to the UK Government’s call for evidence setting out the Welsh Government’s policy position on gambling. The Minister set out the Government’s view that gambling should be addressed as a public health issue and provided our position on a number of areas that require strengthening to better protect people from gambling related harm. These include the need for a robust regulator, greater restrictions on advertising, safer products and the introduction of a statutory levy to support harm minimisation, prevention, evidence-based treatment options and research into gambling related harm. I have since written to the Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy to reiterate the Welsh Government’s position while we await the publication of the outcome of the Review and details of the UK Government’s proposals.
The Task and Finish Group met for the final time on 30 March 2022 and have provided four recommendations for further work. I am accepting all four recommendations in full.
Welsh Government to continue to advocate for reform of the Gambling Act 2005 and support a future system that takes a population-level public health approach, with a focus on preventing and minimising gambling related harm, particularly for children, young people and vulnerable people. Once the outcome of the UK Government’s Review of the Gambling Act 2005 is known, Welsh Government should consider mechanisms for receiving ongoing stakeholder advice.
Welsh Government to continue to implement the recommendations made by the Chief Medical Officer in his 2016/17 annual report ‘Gambling with our Health’.
Welsh Government should develop educational resources and programmes for Wales, particularly for children and young people, for inclusion in the new Welsh curriculum that aim to increase awareness of the risks associated with gambling, reduce stigma and supports the view that gambling is an addictive and harmful product. In developing materials and public health messages, a denormalisation approach to gambling should be taken in addition to consideration of the principles of the approach in Australia.
Based on the gambling health needs assessment, Welsh Government should look to develop a clear referral pathway and continue to work with the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee and NHS Wales to develop and deliver a specialist gambling treatment service for Wales.
Work to deliver the Group’s recommendations is already underway. My officials continue to work with those in the UK Government and I will consider the mechanisms for receiving ongoing stakeholder advice on gambling once the scope of any reforms is known. In relation to recommendation 2, my officials continue to take a cross government approach to the work on gambling related harm and to implementing the recommendations made by the Chief Medical Officer in his 2016/17 annual report ‘Gambling with our Health’. We will continue to engage with stakeholders and look to make progress in relation to these.
In relation to recommendations 3 and 4, reducing stigma and increasing awareness of the risks associated with gambling is essential as is supporting teachers with the appropriate materials they can use to inform learners of the issues around gambling. Officials are therefore working with stakeholders on appropriate education approaches. The health needs assessment is currently being undertaken by Public Health Wales and is due to complete in the summer. This work will then inform the development of specialist treatment services in Wales. Discussions on developing a pathway for services are also taking place with colleagues in England.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Members of the Task and Finish Group on gambling related harm for their time, advice and support.