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former gambling addict launches safer online gambling group

This morning, former online gambling addict David Bradford, 62, and his son the entrepreneur and social activist Adam Bradford, 26, have turned their past five tireless years of campaign work into a non-profit.

The Safer Online Gambling Group aims to raise awareness of online gambling addiction, bring about support for gambling addicts on the NHS and work with operators and the government to tighten up gambling policy to protect vulnerable players.

Last week, the pair exposed weaknesses in the gambling industry’s GAMSTOP self-exclusion scheme which is meant to ensure addicted players cannot gamble again if they exclude themselves. Since their investigation the Gambling Commission has promised to tighten up the scheme’s loopholes.

David hid his 30-year gambling addiction from the family, ending up in jail after stealing £50,000 from his employers. He kept his addiction and the court case secret from his family, with them only finding out about their father’s problems through a report on the front page of the local newspaper. David had racked up over £500,000 of debt through payday loans, credit cards, bank loans and even remortgaging the family home. He was helplessly addicted to gambling and only now can reflect on his issues properly. The pair have campaigned nationally towards politicians, 10 Downing Street and industry operators to bring about change. They have the support of the NHS, the Conservative Party and Labour deputy leader Tom Watson MP.

Recent achievements include the successful campaign to bring the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals stake down to £2 from £100 after widespread criticism of the machines and a roll out of NHS problem gambling clinics on the NHS in this year’s NHS Long Term Plan.

Over 430,000 people are addicted to gambling in the UK according to the Gambling Commission and a further 2 million people are at risk. 55,000 under 16s have gambling related problems according to charity GambleAware and the rate of advertising for gambling has increased by 600% since the Gambling Act 2005 deregulated many parts of the gambling industry. Adam and David would like to see advertising reduced, robust ID and affordability checks placed on online accounts and national campaigns run to highlight gambling addiction, as well as the further rollout of national NHS gambling addiction provision.

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It’s time to focus on what matters – ADDICTS – Open Letter

Media Enquiries: Adam Bradford, tel 07950 313113 or Rodney Levine-Boateng tel 07578 639284

Today, in an open letter to the gambling industry and politicians, Adam and David Bradford from the Safer Online Gambling Group have called for an ‘end to the mud-slinging’ and for political parties to include ‘moderate and person-centred’ gambling policies in their manifestos. 

Writing this morning, ahead of their joint appearance in Channel 5’s documentary Robbing Your Relatives this evening at 10pm, the pair made an emotional appeal.

Dear gambling industry and political leaders,

It is high time that the moral high horse is set free. Nobody in the debate on gambling addiction is looking to ban anything, nor is anyone looking to take anyone else’s enjoyment of gambling away. 

Our focus should solely be on protecting customers and making gambling safe and enjoyable for those who wish to take part in it.

The ground is fertile now for operators and politicians to look practically at ways that intervention projects and player protection measures can step up to the next level. With the recent launch of the Betting and Gaming Council, it is clear that the industry is ready to move and in some cases is already moving.

Progress is being made and sometimes the industry gets an unfair press for its efforts. Taking out betting sponsorship from football clubs, a whistle-to-whistle advert ban, more investment in affordability measures and a commitment to safer gambling measures. We are pleased to see the dial of the national debate changing as these measures emerge.

We are calling on the industry to continue to use the experiences of those who have been through the addiction who are willing to make a difference, in order to make sure the needs and experiences of families and communities are at the heart of any intervention. We hope to see moderate and solution focused gambling policy at the heart of the debate going forwards and look forward to working with you all across sectors and party colours to make change happen. Adam and David Bradford, Safer Online Gambling Group

David’s son Adam, who had to pick up the pieces aged 21 when his father was jailed for stealing money to fund his gambling addiction, said: ‘But for anything to work this factionalism needs to die a fast and painful death. Throwing daggers will not achieve change. Focusing on impact and remembering every word we say, every policy we make, every intervention we carry out when it comes to gambling addiction, has to focus solely and delicately on the mental health of the addict, their family and their community.’ 

The journey to recovery from gambling addiction is long and continuing for the Bradford family, who still make their way through the mountain of debt David Bradford left behind and he still receives counselling and support for his addiction.

The Safer Online Gambling Group works as a cross-sector platform to bring together gambling operators, addicts, health and social care professionals and politicians. It strives for greater awareness of gambling addiction in all sections of society and runs projects which provide direct support for addicts founded on the lived experience of others. 

SOGG PRAISES GOVERNMENT PLANS TO REMOVE GAMBLING FROM VIDEO GAMES

Media Contact:Adam Bradford, tel: 07950 313113, adam@saferonlinegambling.org or Rodney Levine-Boateng at 100 Acres Media tel: 07578 639284, rodney@100acres.com

Today MPs have argued that so-called ‘loot boxes’ in video games for children should be regulated under gambling law and banned from children. 

The feature, which allows players to stake real money for better weapons, player upgrades and gaming add-ons, has been dubbed as simulated gambling by campaigners which is fuelling a hidden epidemic of child gambling addicts.

Research from the GambleAware charity suggests that 55,000 children aged under 18 are addicted to gambling and the Safer Online Gambling Group’s survey from August 2019 suggests that loot boxes and in-game purchases are costing Britain over £270m each year.

A report published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport today urges the Government to crack down on these gaming features which MPs call lucrative games of chance. 

Adam Bradford, director of the Safer Online Gambling Group welcomed today’s news. He said: “It is high time video games companies took responsibility for the highly addictive content they are putting in front of children. Our research this summer showed that this area is of serious concern to parents, with the average spend per young person estimated at £500-600 per year on these games, these practices are bankrupting young people before they become young adults. After my father’s gambling addiction spiralled out of control and led him to jail several years ago, we are passionate about protecting the next generation from the harms of gambling addiction and that is why we have raised the alarm on this issue – we are delighted the Government has seen sense on this important issue.” 

The report today challenges the Government to prove why loot boxes should be regarded in a different way to any other gambling product. 

Committee chair Damian Collins MP pointed the finger at game companies and social networking sites for their “relentless battle to capture ever more of people’s attention, time and money”.

He said: “Their business models are built on this, but it’s time for them to be more responsible in dealing with the harms these technologies can cause for some users.

“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm.

“Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up.

The report says it “struggled to get clear answers and useful information from companies across the games industry”, describing them as “wilfully obtuse”, but hopes the inquiry will focus minds on the potential harms.

Young people losing millions to addictive gaming – REPORT

Today, a survey by the Safer Online Gambling Group exposes Britain’s hidden epidemic of young people spending millions of pounds every year on in-app purchases and video game add-ons.

The survey estimates that young people and families could be losing over £270m each year through so called ‘loot boxes’ which offer the chance to gain greater players or upgrades in video games and mobile apps in return for cash. 1 in 2 young people (11-18) encountered in the survey had used a loot box recently and the average spend on in-game content per person was estimated at £500-600 per year.

One in ten young people are thought to have accidentally spent money on in-app purchases and 95% used gaming apps on their mobile or tablet devices according to the report. The survey also documents the rise in adverts being shown for betting to young people underage on social media and through affiliate advertising platforms inside mobile and tablet based games.

SOGG, led by entrepreneur Adam Bradford (26) and his father David (63), was born out of the pair’s joint concern about gambling addiction and gaming which mimics gambling for children; after David spent time in jail for stealing money to pay for his out of control gambling addiction in 2014. The former financial controller racked up hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of debt through loans, remortgaging his house and betting for over 30 years in secret and left his family to pick up the pieces. The pair have campaigned against Fixed Odds Betting Terminals and lobby for tighter regulation on online gambling. The group has the support of the Labour party, several MPs, the NHS and leading bookmakers.

The pair will hand in the research to Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street and they are calling on the industry and Government to act. They believe in-game purchasing should be barred by default on games and apps and that gameplay should not mimic gambling or link social or financial success to purchases made. They also want tighter rules on advertising and affiliates, so young people have less chance of seeing gambling content under age.

Find out more and view the report at www.saferonlinegambling.org/research.

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Press are invited to attend Downing Street at 3pm on 28th August for interviews, photo opportunities and further comment.

Media Contact: Adam Bradford, tel: 07950 313113, e-mail: adam@saferonlinegambling.org
For SOGG enquiries: Rodney Levine-Boateng, 100 Acres Media, tel: 07578 639284, e-mail: rodney@100acres.com

STATEMENT: William hill betting shops closures

Stories have been flooding into us of William Hill workers left bereft by the sudden announcement of job losses. I will always stand on the side of protecting gambling addicts as that is what the Safer Online Gambling Group exists to do.
However, as a clarifying statement, we are sad to hear of these job losses and wished William Hill had the foresight to sustain their business model through products the government hadn’t deemed as so addictive. It is right we protect vulnerable customers.
It is William Hill who should have better shaped their revenue models and foreseen the growth in online gambling. The high street’s victims are indiscriminate whether it be retail stores or betting shops, both are in demise.
For media enquiries please contact Rodney Levine-Boateng at 100 Acres Media on rodney@100acres.com. 

The Safer Online Gambling Group (SOGG) announces breakthrough partnership with GVC Holdings, owners of Ladbrokes and Coral

The Safer Online Gambling Group (SOGG) is to partner with betting and gaming operator group, GVC Holdings – owners of Ladbrokes and Coral – as part of GVC’s Changing for the Bettor campaign.

The campaign aims to tackle ‘the issues of gambling related harm head-on”. Founded earlier this year by father and son team, David and Adam Bradford, as a non-profit, SOGG will support GVC in its research, education and treatment programme.

Initially, GVC will fund SOGG to develop specifically tailored digital therapy tools for any individual showing signs of problematic play.

SOGG established itself to provide a platform to drive communication and action between the industry, families affected by gambling, and policy makers. It has the support of both government and opposition parties, and is exploring collaborative interventions with the NHS.

Former online gambling addict, David, 62, said: “Online gambling became a devastating addiction for me. In many cases, an addict will not know they have a problem until it’s too late. Psychologically, it takes you over. GVC’s commitment to funding pioneering treatment centres and exploring technologies that may stem a problem in the making is good news, and I’m pleased that they have asked SOGG to work alongside them.”

His son Adam, a social entrepreneur and activist said: “We know first-hand just how devastating the effects out of control online gambling are on the wider family. Many, like my dad, keep their addiction secret – we only found out about his problems through a report on the front page of the local newspaper. SOGG aims to be a credible and trustworthy critical friend to the industry, but not afraid to campaign on behalf of families affected by a gambling addiction who are too often left without a voice. We know we can make change happen, having contributed to the successful campaign to bring the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals stake down and the roll out of an NHS gambling clinic as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.”

Grainne Hurst, GVC’s Director of Responsible Gambling said, “We believe that it is vital to increase collaboration between operators, regulators and independent treatment  providers and are very pleased to be able to partner with SOGG and support their development of digital therapy tools to treat problem gambling behaviour.”

In New Zealand, harm reduction is a legislative requirement, and the annual budget for the prevention of gambling harms is over $NZ18m (£9.3m; €10.7m; $12m) for a population of 4.7 million. By contrast, in 2017-18 Britain had £8m for gambling research, education, and treatment for a population of 65 million; less than £1.5m was spent on prevention activity. This funding relies on voluntary contributions from industry. GVC is the only operator to volunteer to donate 1% (20m) of its gross gambling revenue (GGR) by 2022, to fund research, education and treatment – this is ten times the current requirement.

This project is part of GVC’s wider global safer gambling campaign which includes a $5 million investment with Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addiction over the next five years.

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Notes to editors

Over 430,000 people are addicted to gambling in the UK according to the Gambling Commission and a further two million people are at risk. 55,000 under 16s have gambling related problems according to charity GambleAware and the rate of advertising for gambling has increased by 600% since the Gambling Act 2005 deregulated many parts of the gambling industry. Adam and David would like to see advertising reduced, robust ID and affordability checks placed on online accounts and national campaigns run to highlight gambling addiction, as well as the further rollout of national NHS gambling addiction provision.

£2 FOBT STAKE LIMIT COMES INTO FORCE

On Monday, all 32,000 Fixed Odds Betting Terminals across the country will have their stakes slashed from £100 to £2, after a review by DCMS last year found that the machines caused problems for punters who in some cases ended up getting into serious debt through addictive gambling.

Adam Bradford, 26, is the co-founder of the Safer Online Gambling Group. Adam has been campaigning since 2014 for changes in the gambling industry after his father David, 62, went to jail for stealing £53,000 from his employers to gamble with.

David hid his online gambling addiction from his family, racking up hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of debt in secret, remortgaging the family home and leaving the family penniless. The family only heard of his devastating news as he was in the back of a van on his way to jail. Since being released from prison, he has turned his hand to lending his story and experience to improving the chances of safer gambling for others.

FOBTs, which saw punters lose up to £300 per minute or £18,000 an hour, are poised to become a loss making pursuit for the betting industry after many leading firms last year declared they would have to cut jobs and possibly close stores due to the Government’s clampdown.

What campaigners fear though, is a rise in online betting – an area of the industry which they feel is still under regulated and potentially dangerous, especially for young people.

Adam comments: ‘Monday is a historic day for betting in this country. We are effectively closing the door on gambling addiction on the high street, but quickly transferring the addiction to online betting. Over 50,000 young people are reported to be addicted to betting, many of whom do so online. More young people bet than drink or smoke and online gambling is becoming a pastime of choice for under 30s. A sharp increase in advertising, sports sponsorships and the seemingly unregulated stakes and prizes on online betting are positioning it as the fastest growing betting market in Europe and the Government’s legislation goes nowhere near far enough to close the gateway into addiction for those who are going to move from the terminals to digital games on Monday. This will also provide a headache and regulatory confusion for operators, who will feel an increase in pressure if proper measures are not taken now to ensure safety across the betting industry.

We need to take action now, in collaboration with the industry, to improve safeguarding measures, provide adequate support and treatment and crackdown on pervasisve advertising.’

The Safer Online Gambling Group is working with GVC (owners of Coral and Ladbrokes,) Sky Bet, GAMSTOP (the online self exclusion scheme) and the Labour Party to bring about urgent reform in the online gambling industry.

In the Group’s letter to Sports Minister Mims Davies MP today, Adam and David say:

‘I think we can all agree that the Gambling Act of 2005 is outdated. A set of policies designed in the analogue age has outlived its purpose and requires reform.

Whilst we are not in favour of a predominately regulatory shake-up, we know that meaningful collaboration with gambling companies, the health and social care sector and addicts themselves can provide a powerful conduit to bring about progressive changes.

Partners of the Safer Online Gambling Group are investigating the effectiveness of algorithms and patterns of play behaviour to provide support and a parachute to risky gambling behaviour and are investing in better awareness campaigns and innovative treatment methods to ensure the dangers inherent with gambling, like any other addictive substances, are mitigated with the safety and wellbeing of players in mind.

We urge the Government to put its weight behind this multi-stakeholder approach and bring about sensible, evidence-based policy to underpin the efforts currently being made in the online gambling arena. This starts with an increase in the levy gambling companies must pay to support research and treatment, a thorough investigation into the effect of advertising on the most vulnerable and recommendations about preventative measures such as affordability and ID checks which all operators making themselves available in the UK should adopt.’

Grainne Hurst, GVC’s Director of Responsible Gambling, today said: “We are leading the way on safer gambling and were the first operator to call for the restrictions on TV advertising around live sports, as well as the extension of the £2 stake on FOBTs in Northern Ireland from 1 April 2019.  We are pleased to see the industry has followed our lead on these important issues. In addition, we are the only operator that has committed to doubling our donations to research, education and treatment for problem gambling. Safer gambling is a non-negotiable part of the way we do business and we are proud to have launched our Changing for the Bettor strategy which will increase the research, education and treatment of problem gambling, in partnership with organisations like SOGG.”

For media enquiries please call Adam Bradford on +44 7950 313113 or e-mail adam.bradford@abpcmail.uk.