Cover-up undermines credibility of GambleAware

  1. Here I describe a cover-up by GambleAware, the leading gambling charity, that undermines its credibility.
  2. GambleAware, formerly called the Responsible Gambling Trust (registered charity number: 1093910), is a national charity “committed to minimising gambling-related harm.” It does this by funding research, education and treatment services. Funded itself by donations from the gambling industry, the self-styled independent charity works closely with the industry – too closely for critics. I first wrote about GambleAware on 27 February 2017, identifying four main problems with the charity. Here’s another: it recently instituted a cover-up.
  3. On 28 March 2017, GambleAware published a news item on its website, entitled “Evaluation of MOSES” (screen shot in Figure 1). MOSES is the Multi Operator Self Exclusion Scheme for betting shops, a national scheme run by Multi Operator Self Exclusion Scheme Ltd (registered company number: 10269436). The company in turn is a wholly-owned but self-styled stand-alone subsidiary of the Senet Group (registered company number: 09310491).

    Figure 1. GambleAware news page at 30 March 2017

  4. Anyone wanting to control his or her high-street gambling can, with a single phone call to MOSES, register an initial wish to self-exclude from a self-selected group of betting shops, regardless of operator (self-exclusion.co.uk). A photo is required, which is shared with the relevant operators “to help staff recognise someone who has self-excluded and intervene if he or she breaches that undertaking.”
  5. The Senet Group is “an independent body set up to promote responsible gambling standards and ensure that the marketing of gambling is socially responsible,” says its website. Membership is open to “any gambling operator, and any associated organisation.” On 28 March 2017, the Senet Group, too, announced the MOSES evaluation on its website (screen shot in Figure 2). Its news item linked to the press release on the GambleAware website.

    Figure 2. Senet Group news page at 30 March 2017

  6. The GambleAware press release states that the charity had commissioned the evaluation of MOSES. The evaluation was carried out by company Chrysalis Research UK Limited (registered company number: 07375791). I didn’t understand why the original version of the Chrysalis Research report the charity published didn’t refer to GambleAware at all, astonishingly.
  7. On 29 March 2017, I therefore emailed the report’s author, Louise Duffy, seeking an explanation for the omission of GambleAware in her report. She’s a director of the research company. Having heard nothing, I sent a reminder a week later. This time Ms Duffy replied, on 6 April 2017, saying only: “Apologies for the delay. The published report does now have the acknowledgement in it and is attached here for your information.”
  8. The next day I pointed out in an email that she hadn’t explained, though, why the original version of the report didn’t refer to GambleAware at all. On 10 April 2017, Ms Duffy wrote: “It was an oversight on our part and we should have included that it was commissioned by GambleAware, hence the amendment made.”
  9. I wanted to be clear: did GambleAware really commission the evaluation, as stated in the accompanying press release? A related question is: what exactly is the relationship between the charity and the Senet Group anyway? I shall explain why the relationship is so important in a later post.
  10. The original version of the report was dated 23 March 2017 on the front cover. The file creation date in the file metadata as well is 23 March 2017 (screen shot in Figure 3). Here’s the original version, downloaded from the GambleAware website on 29 March 2017: jn175-moses-evaluation-final-report-230317.

    Figure 3. Original version of report: PDF document properties

  11. The revised version, though, remains dated 23 March 2017 on the front cover, which is misleading and dishonest, or could be perceived as such. The file creation date in the file metadata, meanwhile, is now later – 30 March 2017 (screen shot in Figure 4). Here’s the revised version, downloaded from the GambleAware website on 7 April 2017: jn175-moses-evaluation-report-final-report-230317.

    Figure 4. Revised version of report: PDF document properties

  12. At date of publication the report linked to on the charity website is the revised version I downloaded on 7 April 2017.
  13. There’s no record in the revised version that it’s actually been revised, which again is misleading and dishonest, or could be perceived as such. Similarly, it’s misleading and dishonest, or could be perceived as such, that the revised version fails to explain the reason for the changes.
  14. What’s worse, GambleAware simply swapped the files in the news item dated 28 March 2017 – again misleading and dishonest, or could be perceived as such. Thus the charity hid the change of files (screen shot in Figure 5).

    Figure 5. GambleAware news page at 7 April 2017

  15. I asked Iain Corby at GambleAware in an email why the charity had failed to document on its website the fact that it’d swapped the files – and when. Also, the reason for doing so. Accuracy and transparency, I added, are essential for public trust and confidence in GambleAware and its work. Mr Corby, now deputy chief exec, simply said in his response: the “researcher corrected a minor error.” He said nothing about the charity hiding the change of files. Mr Corby also told me he wasn’t prepared to answer any further queries from me. (I’d explicitly acknowledged him in my 27 February 2017 post for being responsive and willing to engage in discussion. I also phoned then to thank him verbally.)
  16. ADDENDUM: On the subject of self-exclusion, a GambleAware trustee has seemingly failed to declare a relevant interest on the online trustee register of interests. I refer to Clive Hawkswood (screen shot in Figure 6), who is sole director of company The National Online Self Exclusion Scheme Limited (NOSES; registered company number: 10504973), too, according to Companies House records. The company is creating and will operate NOSES, an equivalent self-exclusion scheme for online gambling.

    Figure 6. Trustee Clive Hawkswood’s declared interests at 30 March 2017

  17. On this point Mr Corby said in his email: “Clive Hawkswood’s interest with the RGA [Remote Gambling Association], which is developing NOSES, is already registered.” True, but Mr Hawkswood is sole director of The National Online Self Exclusion Scheme Limited: his role at the company should surely be declared for full disclosure.