Let’s not forget that it’s the job of organisations like the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) to support and promote the gambling industry. The industry is their paymaster, so it would be strange if they didn’t. Logically, part of the BGC’s role is gambling industry reputation management (RM).
RM can be explained simply, it’s about managing how people perceive your industry or company. In practice though RM is a very complex task. It’s history in industries like tobacco, alcohol and ‘junk’ food doesn’t cover RM in glory; far from it. Good RM is clever and very effective that’s why industries pay large sums for organisations like the BGC to do it.
Anyone taking a look at the BGC’s Twitter feed and their recent media coverage has to conclude that they are taking their RM role really, really seriously, especially the worldwide message that responsible gambling is all about the customer behaving ‘appropriately’.
One week ago today on the BBC’s ‘You and Yours’ programme the BGC’s RM sank to a new low. When asked about the UK’s Gambling Commission stating there had been an increase in online slots and casino gaming since the COVID-19 lockdown the BGC’s Chair Brigid Simmonds managed to include a mention that the gambling industry is donating hand sanitisers: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000h25x (from 6m 59s). What sort of thought process leads to such an answer? Please do listen to the whole interview from the start of the broadcast, as opposed to taking J4P’s view, so that you can give both Brigid Simmonds and the BBC interviewer a ‘fair crack’.
J4P also feels the language used by the BGC in a recent Racing Post article entitled ‘Anti-gambling hardliners can’t self-isolate themselves from the facts’ (https://www.racingpost.com/news/anti-gambling-hardliners-cant-self-isolate-themselves-from-the-facts/431352) doesn’t reflect well on them, e.g. “The usual suspects from the anti-gambling lobby have been on their high horses this week.” and, “By all means have a pop at the industry. Many people have genuine concerns and it’s important we address them. But as for the hardline prohibitionists, who are sadly using Covid-19 as just another opportunity to grab cheap headlines.“ Is it possible that grabbing a cheap headline might just have been the objective of the accuser here? Is there a hardline prohibitionist in the group referred to? J4P believes not.
Surely the way forward for the gambling industry is the ‘high ground’. If you think somebody is being unfair there is a way to approach this, but more important is the role of self evaluation – how are you using evidence to enact a genuine move towards safer and fairer gambling as opposed to RM? As an example, is the massive increase in spend on research, education and treatment based on the best outcome evidence, i.e. is it the best spend for protecting vulnerable people or is it the best spend for RM?
J4P was ever hopeful a few months ago when the BGC was launched. It may be unfair that J4P’s initial conclusion is that the signs for not repeating the mistakes of the past appear slim. J4P is struggling to decide where the RM stops and new genuine interventions start?
One thing J4P is not struggling with is the role of hand sanitisers in the reduction of gambling harm; it’s NIL. Just like the other ‘good deeds’ referred to in the interview, it’s ‘window dressing’. Either get on with the real job required or bow out gracefully now.
In these difficult times, please keep safe and help front line staff in (y) our country.