A ‘Whole Council’ Approach to Gambling
A guide for public health and other council officers to support the revision of borough statements of policy
The purpose of this guide is to help embed public health and the wider determinants of health into the gambling review policy process being undertaken by local authorities. To that end, it is aimed at Local Authority Public Health teams.
Local authorities should ensure that when they update their Gambling Policy it is an accurate reflection for how the authority wishes to regulate gambling activities at a local level. This approach will necessitate consultation with a number of stakeholders and the public, along with political endorsement from local Councillors, with approval at Full Council required before any revision can be adopted. The extent to which the Gambling Policy is amended is up to individual borough discretion based on the unique circumstances of the authority.
The purpose of this guide is to advocate a ‘whole systems’ approach to gambling, enabling public health officers to use this golden opportunity to review borough Gambling Policies as a lever to engage with colleagues within local licensing teams. However, it is down to the discretion of each individual Council whether they consider Gambling a local public health priority.
Gambling can be a positive, socially enjoyable activity. The Gambling Commission, which advises how the industry is regulated offers guidance to authorities on how the process should be taken forward, defining among other things who the stakeholders should be. Licensing teams are expected to work in partnership with other colleagues and consult a wide collection of internal and external stakeholders who have an interest to safeguard the gambling activity. The Gambling Commission suggests that internal consultation should take place at an early stage and in advance of the formal consultation process. This gives public health teams an opportunity to help shape the policy from the onset.
Despite this protection, when gambling becomes harmful it becomes a public health issue - not only because of the potential health implications for the individual and family, such as stress, anxiety, depression, or alcohol and substance misuse, but also due to other unintended consequences, such as debt and homelessness and relationship/family breakup.
In this context it is important to take a ‘whole systems’ approach to gambling as it relates to so many facets of everyday life as well as the wider impacts, such as family, friends, employers, and areas where there is a financial connection, such as housing.
Taking a robust public health approach to ensure that protection from harm is a thread that runs through the whole system enables a wider consideration of factors to be included. This may involve, for example, a role to signpost other local authority departments that may be able to provide support to someone who is struggling financially as a result of their gambling; or support from the voluntary sector to tackle addiction, or provide debt advice.
An authority undertaking a review of their borough Gambling Policy is able to also reflect on how including public health can be a useful tool to start a conversation with licensing partners and other colleagues who may be better equipped to recognise the unintended consequences of gambling.