Regulator Urged to Investigate Charity’s Links to Gambling Industry

March 11, 2024 | Reveue

Twickenham, U.K. (March 8, 2024) — Campaigners, backed by the Good Law Project, have raised concerns that GambleAware is almost entirely funded by the gambling industry.

The Charity Commission is being urged to investigate a gambling awareness charity that receives most of its funding from gambling industry.

The Good Law Project, a not-for-profit organisation that uses the law to protect the interests of the public, has called for the regulator to investigate whether GambleAware “is failing in its charitable duties”.

The charity said it strongly refuted the “highly damaging” claims and said it was “robustly independent from the gambling industry”.

The GLP is representing the gambling harms expert Will Prochaska and Annie Ashton, whose husband Luke died by suicide in April 2021, which a coroner concluded had been caused by a gambling disorder. He was at times placing more than 100 bets a day in the weeks leading up to his death.

In a letter to the Charity Commission, the GLP says: “Our clients consider that the trustees of GambleAware are failing to comply with their duties to advance GambleAware’s objects – namely, the provision of education about, and the prevention of, gambling harms – for the public benefit.”

It says: “In short, GambleAware’s long-standing industry ties – manifested most obviously (but not exclusively) in its reliance on industry funding – have meant that all of its activities are based on an acceptance of the industry’s framing of gambling (and a complete failure to engage with alternative analyses which are critical of industry practices).”

The GLP also said in a statement: “GambleAware runs high-profile advertising campaigns which experts say ‘imply that gamblers are a unique category of people who are personally to blame for their losses’, reflecting ‘a discourse promoted by the gambling industry which attempts to shift blame for gambling-related harm away from aggressively marketed harmful products and on to individual gamblers’.

“Instead of helping people to stop gambling, the charity blames the people it should help and advises them to gamble ‘responsibly’.”

The charity had an income of £48.3m in the year to the end of March 2023, £46.6m of which came from “voluntary donations”, according to its accounts.

The accounts says the charity’s donors are “almost exclusively commercial operators rather than individuals and are from within the gambling industry and those operators which derive an income from commercial gambling”.

GambleAware has objects of funding research, education and treatment services to help to reduce gambling-related harms in Great Britain, and spent more than £49m in these areas in 2022/23, according to its accounts.

The Good Law Project said it was “prepared to sue” if the commission did not take action against the charity, although it is not clear what exactly the GLP would do.

Ian Browne, legal manager at the Good Law Project, said: “It’s time for the Charity Commission to step up and investigate whether GambleAware is failing in its charitable duties.”

Prochaska said the gambling industry used UK-registered charities such as GambleAware to “shield itself from scrutiny”.

He said: “Charities aren’t supposed to be apologists for harmful industries, so the Charity Commission should strike GambleAware from the register.

Ashton said: “We can no longer stand by whilst the most prominent UK gambling harm charity hides the fact that the industry’s business model is based on profiting from harm and addiction and instead embeds stigma and victim-blaming narratives.

“We need our charities to speak the truth and not pander to their funders’ interests”.

Zoë Osmond, chief executive of GambleAware, said the charity “strongly refuted” the allegations made in the Good Law Project’s letter, saying they were “baseless” and “highly damaging”.

She said: “We are robustly independent from the gambling industry, having long called for further regulation on gambling advertising and for the implementation of a statutory funding system to hold the gambling industry to account.

“Our public health campaigns, created in collaboration with people who have experienced gambling harm, break down barriers for support and shine a light on the fact gambling harm can affect anyone.

“The treatment and support we commission, which includes the National Gambling Support Network and National Gambling Helpline, represent one of the few lines of defence available to the millions impacted by gambling harms each year.”

A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “We can confirm we have received a complaint relating to GambleAware. We are currently assessing the information available to us to determine if there is a role for the commission.”

SOURCE: Third Sector.

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