Where to begin with this pile of public relations rubbish?
I came across Safer Gambling Week last month whilst stopping at a motorway service station on the M1. After the initial sweet relief of starting an overdue tinkle, I noticed it advertised on a poster above the urinal.
My first response was one of positive intrigue, but suspicion soon followed. There must be very few advertising media that are less effective than the bogs of a fancy petrol garage. Who on Earth would be spending money on such a niche concept in this pointless space?
On the way back to my car, I resolved to find out. Surely not a responsible gambling organisation? They don’t have that much money, and they couldn’t justify wasting it like that. Then who? What could SGW even entail?
As soon as I re-joined the motorway, my point about ineffectiveness had been proven. I forgot all about SGW, just as I have forgotten every other hopeless product I’ve seen promoted above a piss-trough.
That was until this weekend, when I saw the entire window of a betting shop dedicated to SGW. The mystery of who’s-holding-the-purse-strings was solved. Only the gambling industry has so much money they can deliberately buy-up duff advertising channels.
It turns out that SGW is an “industry wide initiative” to raise awareness of safer gambling tools. The ones they are legally obliged to provide.
It’s a bit like British American Tobacco and Imperial getting together to produce a National Don’t Smoke Too Much Day. An event in which they remind everyone they try hard not to sell their death sticks to minors, but otherwise continue their business as usual.
It sounds good, and looks nice, but will achieve precisely flip all (I choose my F words carefully because both of my parents are now regular readers).
I know this, because I recently applied for a role with the Behavioural Insights Team in Westminster. As part of the recruitment process for a poorly paid central London job, they proudly trumpeted their involvement in increasing awareness of said tools. They then quietly admitted that there was no recorded change in behaviours as a result of their fine work.
It might be that exact study that inspired the gambling industry to produce SGW. It empirically proved you could appear more responsible whilst having no impact whatsoever on your bottom line. If that is the kind of work they’re doing, I’m glad they declined my application and ignored my subsequent correspondence.
This whole thing is a charade. If you want people to use the responsible gambling tools (e.g. set your own limits, time outs) then make them genuinely accessible and simple to use. There is no need for a publicity stunt; just be responsible instead of talking about being responsible.
A real SGW would make an effort to actually reduce gambling harms. The most profitable and addictive games would be labelled as such, with stakes reduced and session times deliberately limited. That would be a jarring experience guaranteed to get the attention of players.
There would be a week-long advertising blackout and promotional incentives would be suspended for a week. There would be no communication with players, targeted or otherwise. The email I received yesterday telling me that it is SGW may as well have read “It is safe to gamble this week”. Thanks for the unnecessary and counterproductive reminder.
Furthermore, senior gambling staff would be made to attend treatment centres so they can see first-hand the damage they are enabling. Then at the end of the week, the companies would donate their profits to the participating centres.
If that’s all a bit draconian, then they could just read this blog for ten minutes. That’s enough for a couple of randomly selected articles. I’d be delighted to have a few more readers.
Anything would be better than the absolute sham that has been delivered. Essentially a website that lists helpline phone numbers. All bark and no bite. Just another effort to whitewash the industry’s image while it continues to target the poor and vulnerable. Pathetic.
I’ve got a better idea, but it’ll have to wait for another day. Sign up and stay tuned.
I was luck enough to get to go to Anfield on Saturday for the Liverpool Vs Brighton game. As it was a special occasion, I bet a little more than usual on the match, and the preceding one between Leicester Vs Arsenal. Both turned up fairly surprising results, so I was down £20.
Thankfully a cheeky fiver on New Zealand to beat India in the T20 World Cup came in, so I’ve finished just £12 out of pocket. What a highroller!