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New Chair of ABSG begins role

Posted on 1 April 2019
I am delighted to begin work as Chair of the newly named Advisory Board on Safer Gambling (ABSG). Conscious of the huge amount that has already been achieved, I am also aware of how much more needs to be done if we are to achieve our collective ambition of minimizing harms, and zero tolerance for non compliance with the requirements of the regulator.

My first priority is to listen to the views of those with lived experience, those who bring research expertise, those who are delivering prevention and treatment services to individuals and their families and friends. I want to understand better what ‘good’ looks like from an industry perspective, and how measures by other agencies such as banks, debt advisory services, software developers and the vast range of voluntary sector organisations offering their support and service, can be more widely amplified, adopted and adapted to address harms.

I was delighted to see the commitment to developing national services for those with gambling addictions in the Long Term Plan for England – a hugely important signal from the Department of Health and Social Care that there is a need for action. Other country specific developments, such as the inclusion of gambling as the lead topic in the Welsh Chief Medical Officer’s 2016-17 Annual Report, the prevention initiative in Scotland  and the recent update of its evidence review to support those working in public health to influence gambling policy, and Public Health England’s review to improve evidence on treatment and assess gaps, signal similar concerns and commitment to move forward due to be published later this year.

From a regulatory perspective, the new National Strategy for Reducing Gambling Harms developed by the Gambling Commission is a critically important step and will provide a springboard for further change and improvement. I commend the Commission for this decision, groundbreaking for a regulator to address harms in this way.

As someone with a background in health, academia and regulation, I observe that there is always more research that can be done, whatever the subject. But for this sector, there is an urgency to act, to create a new national health-based prevention and treatment infrastructure, to be proactive, and to ask more of the industry. Research can accompany this, but it must not slow down the need to act with urgency in the interests of all people, most particularly children, young people and other vulnerable people who are currently suffering significant harm from gambling activities.

Dr Anna van der Gaag CBE - Chair of the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling