Reflections and key messages from Glasgow City Council and Public Health Scotland's virtual Gambling-Harms Summit.

Along with other colleagues, I attended Glasgow City Council and Public Health Scotland’s virtual Gambling-Harms Summit which brought together people with lived experience of gambling harms, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to share knowledge, insights, and ideas on tackling gambling harms in a world adapting to COVID-19.

We heard that this highly addictive pursuit has, for too long, been a hidden harm overlooked in Scotland in comparison to other public health issues. The harms are also often underestimated with Dr Heather Wardle indicating that research suggests 1 in 4 of those who engage in gambling can experience harm.

I was struck by the overwhelming agreement that people with lived experience of gambling harms must be at forefront of developing action for change. People with lived experience have been calling for action for some time and coming together to offer support in the absence of other treatment options through initiatives such as Chatter and Machine Zone. I It was heartening to see this community being recognised and valued for their rich, first-hand experiences.

It was established there is an urgent need to focus on taking a whole system approach – involving –  the third and public sector – whilst putting people with lived experience front and centre as equal partners as we co-design actions.

Other key messages from the Summit were:

Person-centred treatment and support options must be developed

Maree Todd MSP opened the Summit by highlighting the need for trauma-informed, person-centred national and local treatment options for those experiencing gambling harm, where “evaluation, collaboration, regulation and research” are key areas of focus.

Challenging the normalisation of gambling is a key priority

By attending this Summit, all participants helped to challenge the normalisation of gambling which currently exists in Scotland.

Sara Redmond, the ALLIANCE’s Director of Development and Improvement, highlighted the need to continue challenging this and “reject the safer gambling mantra, which is extremely offensive to those with lived experience. We need to work across the system, moving away from a personal responsibility narrative to one which acknowledges the power imbalance between a multi-billion pound industry and individuals who are impacted by gambling harms”.

Gambling is a public health issue and should be recognised as such

Councillor Bailie Christie stated, “Gambling is a public health issue – Glasgow City Council has identified the need to develop a holistic approach and raise the profile of gambling harms, similar to alcohol addiction to make links across different areas of addiction”.

Dr Heather Wardle from the University of Glasgow also hoped the Summit would achieve “recognition of gambling as a public health issue” and the serious associated harms which all too often go unrecognised. The need to build networks and communities for those interested in taking forward actions was emphasised.

The stigma surrounding gambling must be addressed

Consistent themes of gambling as a “silent illness” were highlighted throughout the Summit. This is a key message echoed by the ALLIANCE’s Lived Experience Forum; that the shame and stigma associated with gambling is a barrier which prevents people from seeking help, support, and treatment.

Education and prevention are crucial to reducing gambling harms

Education and prevention are key aims of Scotland’s National Strategy towards Reducing Gambling Harm and were also of paramount concern during the Summit.

Showcasing an example of young people increasing their own knowledge and awareness of gambling harms, Michelle Gillies from the Scottish Public Health Network shared the project “Booze, Bet, Bust” (this link will take you away from our website) where young people explored gambling harms and health inequalities.

Increased regulation of online gambling is required

“Gambling didn’t stop because of the pandemic – online betting became the norm” – Maree Todd MSP.

It is clear COVID-19 has accelerated gambling practices into a digital age; Councillor Bailie Christie shared that the UK is world leading in the number of online gambling platforms available. It was clear from the Summit that legislative action is needed to acknowledge the shift of gambling activity online, and to regulate this effectively.

These core messages echo very directly the calls to action which have been outlined by the ALLIANCE’s own Lived Experience Forum. We endorse the messages outlined above as key actions to take forward.

A number of other objectives we would also include are:

  • The introduction of a statutory levy
  • Raising the public’s awareness of gambling harm
  • Increasing awareness of gambling-related harm among health and social care professionals.

Martin and Chris from the ALLIANCE’s Gambling Harm Lived Experience Forum also facilitated their own workshop “The View From Below” at the Summit (this link will take you away from our website).

The momentum from this Summit must be maintained; together we must take forward a whole system, nation-wide approach to tackling gambling harms.

End of page.

You may also like:

Written by: Marianne Tyler, Senior Development Officer Published: 26/10/2023

Senior Development Officer for the Children and Young People Programme reflects on the current nature of funding in the sector.

Continue reading
Written by: Phil Donnelly, Senior Community Links Officer Published: 27/09/2023

The Links Worker Programme in Glasgow, community development and cuts to the service.

Continue reading
Back to all opinions