Bookies Staff Undertrained in Responsible Gambling and Give Lousy Betting Advice, Says Report

Staff in bookmakers’ shops are woefully ill-equipped to spot problem gamblers and are more likely to offer them shoddy strategy advice than due concern, according to a new report commissioned by the gambling industry itself.

Tom Watson

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said the report demonstrated a “litany of poor practise from an industry that is out of control.” The report itself was commissioned by the industry in recognition of the need to raise its own standards. (Image: David McNew/Reuters)

The study, conducted by research group Revealing Reality and published by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling, found that staff were poorly trained and would encourage customers to chase losses or would reinforce “false beliefs” about lucky numbers or other useless “tactics” involved in playing fixed-odds betting terminals.

According to the report, one customer was told: “You always win when you sit at this table, don’t you?” Another customer was reserved a seat at a particular machine on the basis that it was a “ticking time bomb” that was about to pay out after a series of losses.

Wake-Up Call

In most cases, researchers did not believe there was any real intention to deceive, but rather a lack of education about problem gambling, and the dynamics of gambling itself was to blame.

“Few [staff] had ever received training in how to practically deliver and integrate responsible gambling practice into their day‑to‑day role,” he said.

Some members of staff even said they found problem gambling training initiatives to be “pointless” or “futile.”

“The gambling industry is working tirelessly to promote responsible gambling,” said IGRG spokesman, John Hagan. “And it was industry recognition of the importance of raising standards of messaging and training which led to the commissioning of this report.”

But Marc Etches, chief executive of the UK’s leading charity for gambling addicts, GambleAware, said the report was a “clear wake-up call to the gambling industry.”

“Frankly, all sectors need to do more to ensure staff and customers know when, how and where to seek help,” he added.

Government Review Due This Month

The report comes as the UK government is due to publish its long-awaited review into FOBTs this month, which will likely recommend reducing the maximum stakes of the controversial machines to either £30, £20 or £2.

The bookmaking industry says any of these reductions would result in the closure of hundreds of shops across the country and the loss of thousands of jobs.

Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson, whose party favours slashing the maximum odds to £2, which the industry sees as the Doomsday scenario, called the report “shocking” and said it demonstrated “a litany of poor practice from an industry that is out of control.”

“Instead of trying to help problem gamblers, and encourage responsible gambling, too often gambling firms and their staff are facilitating irresponsible behaviour,” he added.

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