Bronwen Dalley Smith, Senior External Affairs Officer, Money and Mental Health
Two years of progress in helping banks tackle gambling harms
18 March 2022
No one could have predicted how the last two years were going to play out. They’ve been full of unforeseen twists and turns, and in many different ways since January 2020, a lot has changed. Back then, we launched an exciting project funded by the Gambling Commission, aimed at galvanising action among financial services firms to reduce gambling-related harm. We didn’t know then what lay in store with the pandemic — but despite the upheavals of the past two years, we are really proud of the progress we’ve achieved in working with financial services to improve the support available to people at risk of gambling harms.
It’s estimated that 34,000 adults in Great Britain are classed as problem gamblers, and a further 1.75 million are at risk of gambling-related harm. And, as our previous research has highlighted, people with mental health problems are particularly vulnerable to harm. Our mental health can affect the reasons why we gamble, whether we stay in control, and our ability to cut down.
As one of only three places that may know the full extent of someone’s gambling activity (the person, the gambling firm and their bank), financial services providers can play an important role in helping to reduce harm.
The project aimed to help the sector act on this opportunity, by increasing engagement, confidence and best practice within financial services firms on the issue of reducing gambling-related harm. Under this remit, we devised an integrated programme of work that saw us diving into existing literature and studies, carrying out new research, and collaborating with as many cross-sector experts as possible. From the outset however, we knew that the most important voices were those of the experts by experience. Throughout the project, we have been blown away by the generosity, wisdom and willingness of those with lived experience of gambling problems (like Michael and Matt to name just a couple) — and would like to thank every single person who helped to bring our work to life.
From ideas to outputs
During the project, we organised events and workshops, published papers and guides, held cross-sector meetings and carried out in depth research to explore best practice in tackling gambling harms. In the section below, we recap some of our key outputs and highlights.
Since the beginning of the programme, Money and Mental Health has:
- Completed a concerted communications campaign, including 70+ programme-related posts across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and 18 gambling-related blogs, including six guest articles.
- Hosted nine external research sessions, three workshops, two conferences and one roundtable with a total of 389 attendees and decision-makers.
- Featured in 16 pieces of gambling-related media coverage including national, trade and regional outlets.
- Published a best practice guide for banking professionals, receiving 363 views and 169 downloads.
- Published a policy paper collating the programme’s findings and recommendations for the financial services sector, government and regulators.
- Grown our Professional Network by 123 financial services professionals (and counting!)
Alongside this activity, we’re glad that our policy work and insights from the Research Community have fed into wider progress made by the sector towards addressing gambling harms. During the programme’s lifespan, we have been particularly encouraged by the ban on gambling with credit cards and the widespread roll out of gambling blocks offered by banks. Our research has fed into many discussions about gambling blocks with firms – like the importance of friction and cooling-off periods – and we’re pleased to learn that it is estimated that 90% of all current accounts now offer the block as a safer gambling tool.
However, there is still work to be done.
Tackling gambling-related harm will be an evolving task with new issues likely to emerge, and while we are enormously grateful for the appetite and focus the financial services sector has shown so far, we can’t stop now. Although our project has come to an end, we look forward to continuing to work with banks, building societies, government, regulators and experts by experience to improve our collective understanding and champion progress in this space.
We also eagerly await the outcome of the government’s review of the Gambling Act, as well as the exciting initiatives led by BIT, GamCare and others.
As we reflect on the project, we’d like to say one final thank you to our funders, the Gambling Commission; our friends across the banking, research, charity, policy and regulatory sectors; and, most importantly, the members of our Research Community and other experts by experience who generously gave their time, insight and expertise. We couldn’t have done it without you.
If you work in this area and would like to keep up to date with our work, join our Professional Network. If you have experience of a mental health problem and would like to share your thoughts and ideas with us, you can learn more about our Research Community here.
If you work at a bank or building society and want to discuss how your firm can better support people experiencing gambling harms, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and find our best practice guide here.