Corporate philanthropy often called corporate social responsibility (CSR) is hitting the headlines in the gambling world.
Why gambling companies are now rushing to partner with charities and not-for-profit organisations is not difficult to understand. After many years of being able to keep the ‘darker side’ of how the modern corporate gambling industry trades the ‘genie has leapt out of the bottle’ over the last few years.
At the extremes the modern corporate gambling industry is refusing to take £2 bets off those deemed as skilled bettors whilst bankrupting others who may be vulnerable using worrying practices. Quite rightly these trading practices have been exposed, which is highly embarrassing for the industry and not the best news for regulators and government who’ve known about these practices for years and done little until the publicity became embarrassing for them also.
This all means panic has set in and the ‘PR types’ are doing their best to improve the reputation of what has become a huge industry, which means many rely on income from it. There’s no doubt highly paid corporate reputation managers will have been selling the following list from the ‘Charities Aid Foundation’ (https://www.cafonline.org/) to corporate gambling companies.
The potential benefits of CSR to companies include;
- better brand recognition
- positive business reputation
- increased sales and customer loyalty
- operational costs savings
- better financial performance
- greater ability to attract talent and retain staff
- organisational growth
- easier access to capital
At the same time CSR creates a new source of income for ‘good works’ usually undertaken by charities and not-for-profit organisations; what’s not to like, everyone’s a winner. However, have a think about the following: Are companies pledging to give away part of their profits to help fix problems they caused? The answer to this maybe yes or no, so the big challenge for charities and not-for-profit organisations is ascertaining what money is being given for and why?
The gambling industry provides pleasure for the vast majority, but it does cause harm to a significant minority, so surely the best sort of CSR (grant giving in this case) is to support projects that try to address the prevention of said harm? If you agree with this assertion, it’s not difficult to understand why the announcement of The Samaritans as the charity of the year at PaddyPower/Betfair (Flutter) and has upset those who campaign for a safer gambling industry, e.g. would this CSR money be better spent attempting to prevent gambling traits that may lead to attempted suicide or actual suicide?
There is a strong argument that PaddyPower/Betfair should be training their staff as part of their annual basic business costs to recognise problematic gambling traits in their customers way before thoughts of, attempts to, or actual suicide relating to gambling occurs. Why dress this crucial spend up as CSR?
In countries like the UK, which has a long history of relying on charitable donations to pay for services that should be funded by the State, e.g. hospice care through taxation; these dilemmas will continue. Whilst they do it’s always essential that charities and not-for-profit organisations remember a saying that most of the adult population understands, “There are no free lunches,” so what percentage of your free lunch is being spent for the correct, thus hopefully the most effective reasons?
It isn’t easy to work out, so be very careful or expect some criticism.