Bronwen Dalley Smith, Senior External Affairs Officer, Money and Mental Health

Better blocks and beyond: highlights from our gambling conference

10 November 2021

Last Tuesday we hosted our second online conference exploring how financial services firms can help tackle gambling harms. We were joined by experts by experience, financial services professionals, policy makers, regulators, researchers and charities to discuss the important progress the financial sector has made over recent years, and explore what’s next.

Throughout the morning’s panel discussions, Q&As and breakout sessions, conversations covered vital topics including: 

  • How people are getting around current gambling blocks and how financial services can help to close these loopholes
  • The value of including people with lived experience of gambling issues in the development of safer gambling tools 
  • How and why firms should consider using customer transaction data to identify and support customers
  • The increasingly blurred boundaries between gambling and other activities such as gaming, crypto and investing, and how sectors can respond.

We were delighted to be joined by a brilliant line up of speakers – including Rachel, Michael, Danny, Tony and Matt who shared their personal experiences of gambling issues – and nearly 170 attendees. You can watch the full keynote speeches and panel sessions back here, and find a few of the Money and Mental Health team’s highlights below.

“It was certainly possible for people back then to ruin their lives through gambling, but the risks of addictive gambling are so much bigger today.”

Discussing the concerning pace of change since his father worked as an on-track bookmaker – and the growing prevalence of addictive and risky gambling activities – Charles Randell (Chair of the Financial Conduct Authority) highlighted the need for firms to empower their customers to help them make better financial choices and retain control. While he welcomed the number of banks offering spending blocks, he urged all banks to demonstrate how they’re taking extra steps to protect customers who have vulnerabilities like gambling addiction.

Like any addiction, it’s something that always sits with you and something you always have to be aware of. You’re only one step away from a relapse.”

Kicking off our first panel was Michael, an expert by experience who spoke publicly for the first time about his gambling issues. Michael passionately shared how he had struggled to control gambling impulses throughout the pandemic, and how he thinks banks could and should do more to bolster their customers’ resilience. Through a combination of treatment, online blocking software and his bank’s spending block, Michael is currently in control of his gambling problem. Yet closing his speech, he made a pragmatic and powerful plea for firms to consider giving their customers the choice of restricting their spending, via reduced withdrawal and spending limits, just as easily as they’re able to increase it.

Simply moving the boundaries, simply changing the definition of what’s gambling to try and capture some of these things will not solve the problem. As you move the perimeter, the skirmishes move with it.”

Discussing the increasing overlap between gambling, gaming and other risky financial products, Tim Miller, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission, explored the futility of redrawing the boundary around what gambling is. Instead he called on cross-sector colleagues, across financial services, regulation and the gambling industries, to collaborate and work together to support and protect consumers – to help them better understand the different products and services out there, and the associated risks.

Keeping the momentum going

The conversations at our event on Tuesday were encouraging, and we’re pleased to see that there is appetite among multiple sectors to continue to push the needle. But we would like to see talk turn into action. 

If you work in financial services and your firm is exploring some of the issues discussed above, we’d love to hear from you. Similarly, if you’d like to learn more about how our expertise can help with the design and development of safer gambling tools, please get in touch today.