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GambleAware has vehemently denied accusations of disseminating false information in its public health campaigns.

CEO Zoë Osmond (pictured) firmly refuted the claims made in a complaint lodged with the UK Charity Commission, labelling them as both unfounded and detrimental.

The complaint, submitted by independent non-profit organisation The Good Law Project, accuses GambleAware of disseminating false information regarding gambling-related harms and suicides and of failing to advance GambleAware’s objectives, namely the education about and prevention of gambling-related harm.

The Good Law Project said it acts on behalf of public policy expert Will Prochaska, formerly the strategic director of Gambling with Lives, and Annie Ashton, whose husband Luke Ashton took his own life in 2021, with the coroner attributing his death to a gambling disorder.

The complaint alleges that GambleAware promotes a narrative that aligns with the interests of the gambling industry, shifting blame away from aggressive advertising and harmful products and onto individual gamblers.

The complaint also questions GambleAware’s independence, stressing that the charity is mainly funded by the gambling industry. 

“The Charity Commission must take action and investigate whether GambleAware is breaking charity law by failing in their duties to provide unbiased information – accepting the false narrative that gambling is a problem for individuals instead of a problem with the industry. 

“And we’re preparing to take legal action if they refuse,” the Good Law Project said. 

“Baseless and highly damaging”

When contacted by NEXT.io, Osmond said: “As the leading charity working to keep people safe from gambling harm in Great Britain, we strongly refute the allegations made in this letter, which are both baseless and highly damaging.”

“Our public health campaigns, created in collaboration with people who have experienced gambling harm, break down barriers for support and shine a light on the fact gambling harm can affect anyone. 

“The treatment and support we commission, which includes the National Gambling Support Network and National Gambling Helpline, represent one of the few lines of defence available to the millions impacted by gambling harms each year.”

Moreover, Osmond stressed that GambleAware is “robustly independent” from the gambling industry and has long called for further regulation on gambling advertising and for the implementation of a statutory funding system to hold the gambling industry to account.

Claims stigmatise those needing support

Ben Howard, chair of GambleAware’s lived experience council, shared his personal journey of overcoming gambling addiction through the support provided by GambleAware’s services. 

Howard said he struggled with gambling addiction for many years and found recovery through the GambleAware commissioned National Gambling Support Network (NGSN). 

“From this I was able to build a strong network of pre-support and treatment in under 48 hours, as well as sustained aftercare which I still use today in my fourth year of recovery. 

“The NGSN not only provided me with life-changing guidance but saved me from suicide in 2020.”

He added: “From this, I know first-hand just how essential and effective these services are and they continue to help thousands of people every year. 

“Any claims that the services are unhelpful or inadequate are not only wrong, but also highly damaging and stigmatising for those needing support.”

In January, GambleAware CEO Osmond urged the UK government to reconsider its implementation plan for a statutory industry levy, stressing the importance of a comprehensive National Strategy for Gambling Harm Prevention and Treatment.

Osmond highlighted that without such a strategy, the effectiveness of the levy could be limited. 

She called for the establishment of a unified Prevention and Treatment Commissioner or a closely integrated framework to ensure equitable access to services across different regions.

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