For his entire adult life, until 2005, Ian Bartlett lived on the wrong side of the law, carrying out criminal activities to support his addiction. He wasn’t addicted to drugs or alcohol, he was addicted to gambling and that addiction destroyed his personal life time and time again. Things appeared to be getting better when he came to Faith in 2010 and as baptised but very quickly he returned to his addiction and this time instead of turning to crime he turned to credit, and was soon struggling to climb out of his financial pit.
It was at this point that Ian felt God speak to him about his problem and made Ian realised that he was able to help himself and others in the Lord’s strength. 22 months have passed since this calling took hold and Ian has steadily been building relationships and trust with people who he believes have the ability to help bring about a transformation in society for the benefit of those who have been attracted to gambling by whatever means.
This year, Ian and a church friend created GAMserve (www.gamserve.org.uk), a movement to bind together the initiatives that have been borne out of Ian’s mission.
The team at GAMserve are following a calling from our Lord to drive changes in society to better safeguard those who are vulnerable to the harm of gambling addiction. Its efforts go beyond raising awareness of the damage done by gambling addiction. Through prayer and God’s grace the team are developing relationships that we believe will ultimately enable actual practical changes to become reality. GAMserve has already established contacts in Parliament, the Judiciary, those involved in Research and Rehabilitation programs and leaders in UK Churches.
Ian says “The journey is a long one but we see doors opening before us at every turn. By seeking His will we know that something special will result from following where He guides us. GAMserve is not a campaign against gambling, it is a call to action for Christian’s everywhere to recognise that gambling addiction is a hidden problem that they and society must not ignore.”
It was at a Christian conference (#TG14) in June that the team at GAMSERVE met Andy Flannagan MP and Colin Bloom MP who were attending together to speak about Christianity in Politics. It is this that led to Ian Bartlett asking Andy for support in three key areas:
1. GAMserve would like to see a watershed implemented relating to all gambling products, services and activities on all Social Media sites and T.V for 9pm. The Gambling Act 2005 introduced a watershed in most circumstances but loopholes mean that a huge increase in gambling adverts has been allowed on T.V over the past 7 years, rising from 234,000 adverts in 2007 to 1.4 million in 2013. A precedent has already been set for other area of concern like Alcohol, Cigarettes and Adult Content and this is an area that politicians have real influence over.
2. We advocate that a locking/unlocking system is required (by Law) on each Fixed Odds Betting Terminal which switches the machine to demo mode each time a player cashes out until it is remotely activated again by the shop staff, so that that only people that appears to be over the legal age of play are given the chance to do so. This is different to the current voluntary solution that leaves the machine in operating mode and requires the shop staff to de-activate it if they have concerns about the age of anyone playing. The Gambling Commission own figures show that in 2009 109,000 children entered a betting shop but in 2013 that rose to 588,000 and another 27,000 were stopped after placing their first bet. This is a huge increase and by implementing a system which prevents underage gambling by locking each machine, would not only act as a safeguard but also as a deterrent to children even trying to gamble.
3. GAMserve believes that the UK is poorly organised in the area of research and education relating to gambling addiction compared to many other countries, for example Australia and Canada. To improve this situation we are keen that a freely accessible and comprehensive library is established that covers the area of gambling addiction and responsible play, and that this library is added to regularly through overseas publications and research papers and through an ongoing program of bespoke research into the prevalence of and links associated with problem gambling amongst vulnerable groups in UK society.
We also note and suggest a review of the fact the Responsible Gambling Trust, which manages the commissioning of research in the UK, contains only one parliamentary representative as a Trustee, compared to five industry CEOs (one of which is Chair).
The GAMserve team hopes that this summary of its background and aims will give the politically motivated an opportunity to engage with the issues raised and are interested in hearing from others that share our concerns.