For the last five years I have been working in the corporate training sphere, looking at a range of skills from Leadership and Management to Communication and Change Management; however, I had never really expected to become so bound up in one particular industry - which was Gambling.
As someone who had never set foot across the threshold of a betting shop to never having bought a scratch card, it would be true to say that my knowledge and experience was limited to say the least. As for casinos, well – people like me didn’t go to them. It’s therefore with some wry amusement that I look back on the last few years and where I have been, both intellectually and geographically.
It’s an interesting story in the first place, predicated on the fact that I was introduced to a former problem gambler by a mutual friend. The former explained that he wished to develop a charity to educate young people against problematic gambling behaviour. On that basis I was commissioned to write a curriculum, workshop and resources for the charity from first principles. As part of my work I visited nearly all the major names on the High Street for gambling as well as some other interesting sources. One of these organisations very much admired the education resources and training and asked what else could be achieved in this area, meaning would it be possible to train the staff who worked in the betting shops and their managers in a similar way to teachers. Given my background was in writing qualifications and delivering training programmes, this was very possible indeed. Returning home, I considered subjects such as safeguarding, customer care, health and safety, and employability skills. I then applied the knowledge I had acquired from all the work I had done with the industry, including the myriad number of “safer gambling” conferences. I had also encountered many problem gamblers and associated others along the way, so I had stored a huge bank of pertinent information. Over the course of the summer of 2016 I worked tirelessly to provide standards for a qualification for the gambling industry, as well as create an engaging and informing training experience around safeguarding. Little did I know then that this would be ideal preparation for creating and delivering my own suite of training workshops in this area for Seventh Wave Corporate Training, which I continue to deliver and upon which I continue to expand. It has also been instructive to deliver training online during lockdown in terms of adapting it for a slightly different audience and still receiving positive feedback, despite the constrictions. Working with KnowNow Limited has also allowed me to chair conferences on safer gambling and to join panels with Casino Beats to get the message out.
Overall, my work has taken me from the United Kingdom to Malta, Gibraltar to Cyprus, and from the Isle of Man to Bulgaria, with Mauritius and the Netherlands next on the cards. I continue to expand my knowledge through working with the industry as well as looking for new partnerships, both nationally and internationally. Although safer gambling and player protection have some clear pathways, I also wish to look at the science and the psychology of gambling, including the cognitive processes used by gamblers, both those who play safely as well as those who find this more problematic. As well as these issues, I will be concentrating on well-being and good mental health for both players and for members of staff, both of whom need to be better looked after.
My work during these last five or six years in gambling has also made me extremely curious about how the industry works. I have my own philosophy around how it can be a force for good and how it can be socially responsible. It is also interesting to explore the challenge it has in the sphere of problem gambling, a hugely complex and divisive question at times. It is a formidable subject and much more complicated than many observers understand. There are those who would regulate gambling out of existence and render it null and void as a form of entertainment for adults in this context, without exploring the subtleties of some aspects of the entertainment it offers.
As an educator and former teacher, I would ask the industry what lessons it wishes to teach. How will it educate future gamblers? What is its message to gamblers of the future?Why is it safe to play on this site or in this gambling space? Why should I trust them? What are the odds really? I would like to see every gambling organisation have somebody wearing an education hat. It is great that some organisations work in schools and colleges and universities as I have done for many years; however I do believe the industry itself needs educating about education and it is not always good enough to hand money over to organisations without understanding what the message really is or what is being discussed.
What have I learnt, then, about gambling in the last six years? It’s that education and training will always be important for the industry as we move beyond 2020 into an uncertain future, and, if it can be done well, it can be ultimately transformative in the most positive of ways.