Sarah Gardner: Reducing risks, tackling harms

Gambling Commission Sarah Gardner gambling related harm
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In an abridged version of her speech at the Shard Financial Vulnerability Summit 2021, the now replaced Sarah Gardner, deputy CEO at the GB Gambling Commission argued in favour of increased information sharing by gambling operators in Britain and the development of a Single Customer View.


Vulnerabilities differ and the appropriate response will depend on the circumstances – but even where there are no other markers of harm than the identification of circumstances that mean a customer is vulnerable, there will be times when action is important. This can happen by individual gambling companies or banks, but one of the major projects that will help identify and then protect vulnerable people from gambling related harm is the development of a Single Customer View.

Currently no gambling operator has a full picture of a customer’s gambling. We recognise this increases the challenge of keeping a customer safe where operators currently only have a partial view of a customer’s behaviour. A Single Customer View would give operators a full picture of a customer’s risk of harm whilst keeping the customer’s data secure. A Single Customer View could dramatically help reduce harm and that is why we will not accept progress at the pace of the slowest on this work. This project is also an excellent demonstration of collaboration to protect people and reduce risk. We are working closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office to make sure the project will protect consumers data. Following the ICO’s work to establish a legal basis for the project and ensure consumers’ data is protected and secure, we will look to industry to begin solution trials as soon as possible. So we are also supporting operators as they work with us to develop the technology to test and then roll out the project.

And that collaboration, to reduce risk and protect the vulnerable from gambling harm, is a good moment to reflect on our work with the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

The National Strategy provides a framework to support collaboration by partners to reduce gambling harms – the Commission and other bodies or organisations working in the financial, health and the third sector. It is not ‘the Gambling Commission’s Strategy’. In fact, many of the elements of the strategy reflect action by or in collaboration with others – for example: research programmes to broaden understanding of the problem and how best to tackle it, the development of appropriate public health prevention interventions throughout the country and education to prevent harm occurring.

As we have said, collaboration will be key to success in tackling and driving down levels of gambling harms and many of your organisations and companies here today will no doubt be able to play a role in this work.

For example, the Finance and Banking industries are an excellent example of successful collaboration and sharing best practice. Just a few years ago there was very little support for customers from their Banks to help protect from gambling harm. Now 90 percent of debit cards have gambling blocker options for customers. The financial sector is increasingly considering gambling as part of their own work to identify and support customers in vulnerable situations and work by organisations such as the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, the Personal Finance Research Centre and GamCare all provide evidence and toolkits which the financial sector can use to support customers who are vulnerable because of or alongside gambling. The Gambling Commission’s ban on gambling with credit cards that was introduced last year is a significant preventative measure. Together with gambling blocks and approaches to gambling vulnerability in the financial sector this is a significant step up in tackling the risks vulnerable people face with gambling.

A consultation and call for evidence that closed earlier this year on how online gambling companies identify and intervene with customers suffering or at-risk of harm will also see us take further action to reduce the risk of gambling harms, particularly for customers who are vulnerable. There was a huge response to this call for evidence, with over thirteen thousand responses. It is of course a controversial and complex area and we need to strike an appropriate balance between consumer protection and concerns about privacy and consumer choice. Such a volume of responses will take time to process. But this will not stop us dealing with levels of harm that are clearly well beyond any border line of acceptable risk.

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