VGCCC Puts Gambling Operators On Notice to Minimise Gambling Harm

June 23, 2023 | Responsible gaming

The unequivocal statement issued today (22 June) is believed to be a world-first among gambling regulators. It declares gambling ‘harm is preventable’, and minimising harm will ‘guide all our regulatory decisions, actions and expectations’.

The VGCCC began operating in July 2022, with a new regulatory mandate to minimise gambling harm and problem gambling.

VGCCC chair, Fran Thorn, said the statement represented a ‘line in the sand’, and “We are committed to holding gambling operators to account against their social licence, not just their regulatory obligations.

“The link between gambling and harm is established, just like the link between smoking and cancer is established.

“We are making our views on gambling harm crystal clear to the industry and the wider community,” Ms Thorn said. “Without qualification, gambling causes harm to people who participate, as well as their family, friends, colleagues and the community in which they live.

“Gambling operators have a duty to care and act to prevent causing harm to their customers and the broader community.

“The VGCCC is deliberately breaking away from the traditional narrative of the past 30 years, which has marginalised harm by only referring to it in the context of something conveniently labelled “problem gambling”, or linking it to customers’ failure to gamble ‘responsibly’.”

The VGCCC’s new position states that ‘a possibility of harm remains whenever someone is gambling’ and ‘disregarding the possibility of harm is equivalent to disregarding harm’.

‘Preventing harm means acting immediately and decisively whenever there are signs of harm or possible harm,’ the statement says.

It warns that ‘gambling markets gravitate toward harmful offerings’ in the competition to attract customers. The fact an offer may be lawful does not mean it is not harmful, the statement says. Gambling providers’ duty to care for the wellbeing of their customers ‘extend(s) beyond merely complying with the law’, the statement says. ‘Providers are responsible for turning their minds to identifying and preventing harm.’

‘Failure to honour the duty invites scrutiny into whether a gambling provider is complying with its legal obligations,’ the statement warns.

“Protecting patrons, their families and the community from gambling harm is now at the center of everything we do,” said Ms Thorn. “It must also be top of mind for all gambling operators.”

VGCCC CEO Annette Kimmitt said the organisation was ‘making it clear to the industry that we’re taking a zero-tolerance approach to those that deliberately contravene their obligations to protect the community from gambling harm’.

“Putting it as bluntly as we can: the VGCCC expects gambling providers to operate decently as well as legally.”

Detailing initiatives by the VGCCC to minimise harm, Ms Kimmitt said decision-making processes have been reframed to evaluate the risks of gambling harm in all licencing approvals and applications.

Other initiatives include:

  • A new ‘Harm Minimisation Assessment Tool’ that considers a range of harm minimisation criteria when assessing applications for new, or variations to existing, electronic gaming machines. Due to the tool, several applications have been refused.
  • Imposing new conditions to improve harm minimisation measures at venues seeking to increase the number of electronic gaming machines onsite.
  • Placing maximum bet limits on a new online keno game and preventing customers from reinvesting winnings.
  • Anti-harm measures at Crown Casino, including a direction banning marketing programs targeting at-risk and vulnerable members of the community.

The VGCCC’s 7 core statements on harm are:

  1. Our harm minimisation objective guides all our regulatory decisions, actions and expectations.
  2. Gambling causes harm.
  3. Recovery from harm does not alter the causal role played by gambling.
  4. Harm is preventable.
  5. Gambling markets gravitate toward harmful offerings.
  6. Gambling regulation seeks to prevent harm.
  7. Gambling providers have a duty to care for the wellbeing of their customers and their communities.

Read the VGCCC’s position statement on gambling harm.

SOURCE: Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC).

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