On Tuesday I was in Parliament for Justice Questions, and a statement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. I asked the Justice Secretary of State about the implications of problem gambling for the justice system and the responsibility that gambling companies have. Increasingly we are seeing individuals with a gambling addiction committing crime to fund their habit. These crimes inevitably end up being punished with custodial sentences. Yet the gambling industry, who are often complicit in these crimes by encouraging individuals to continue gambling past their limits and who always profit from this situation, are not held accountable for their aggressive and predatory behaviour. I asked the Secretary of State to meet with me to discuss the lack of accountability in the system for the gambling industry and what can be done to rectify this.
This week we also saw the long-awaited announcement of the Gambling Review. The architects of the 2005 Gambling Act could never have anticipated that by 2020, technology would have allowed our phones, tablets and computers to become 24/7 limitless gambling hubs. For far too many this has led to devastation, demoralisation and worse, death. I asked the Minister to assure us that during the review the voices of bereaved families, those with lived experience, campaign groups and colleagues from across the political spectrum, will be given the same consideration as the well-resourced, confrontational and relentless gambling lobby, whose sole motivation is profit.
On Wednesday, I was pleased to chair a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm during which we discussed the announcement of the gambling review and how we could contribute and encourage participation from those with lived experience. We can hear all the statistics and economic arguments of those in the gambling industry, but the real and heart-breaking effects of problem gambling are felt within our communities, with real people and real consequences. We need to hear from them.
The gambling work continued on Thursday when Iain Duncan Smith and I spoke to the Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling, which was launched by the Howard League for Penal Reform. The Commission was set up to establish the links between problem gambling and crime, the impact of these links on communities and society, and what can be done. We know that poverty impacts crime levels, we know that drug and alcohol addiction impacts crime levels – why would gambling addiction not impact on crime levels as well? Tackling crime is not just about laws and prisons; it’s about people. We have to help people deal with and manage societal and personal problems in order to prevent crime.
On Thursday I was really pleased to speak at a Swans Unity in Community event where I discussed the importance of our Everyone Deserves a Christmas campaign and the amazing generosity that has come from our community. I have been overwhelmed by the response to our auction – Michael Sheen and Gareth Bale’s involvement was also incredible! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated and bid on items, and to all those involved in putting together our Christmas hampers so that everyone in our community has something to enjoy at Christmas. I know this is going to be a hard Christmas for many families in and around Swansea, but I also know that we have a fantastic community that will pull together and ensure that those who need some extra support have it. Thank you to all involved.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. As always, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org – my team and I are here to help. And remember – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!