Westminster City Council and Manchester City Council are the first councils in the UK to team up with Geofutures to map people at risk of gambling-related harm in their communities.
The report, launched on 9 February, comes before a change to regulations on 6 April, which will require all gambling premises to prepare a local area risk assessment.
The two councils found similar concerns about gambling and decided to work together with the support of the Local Government Association to identify and map at-risk individuals within the two cities.
It is hoped that this information will help make it easier to understand the potential impact of gambling premises, and better inform decisions about new outlets.
Two maps are available for:
The research maps areas where people are at greater risk of harm looking at local patterns of key factors in vulnerability such as mental health and unemployment, as well as mapping the location of homeless shelters, and drug and alcohol treatment centres.
The final publication is the second phase of the research, with the first looking at which groups are more vulnerable to gambling-related harm.
The research should help better inform local area risk assessments from April and help the gambling industry to work closely with local communities.
This could mean that gambling operators put in place more staff to spot those struggling with gambling, more security staff, changes in opening hours, or even financial support to care providers in an area.
Operators could also engage as a group with local police or give individuals the ability to self-exclude across a local community.
Councillor Nickie Aiken, Westminster City Council cabinet member for public protection and chairman of Westminster’s licensing committee, said, “This is a really valuable piece of research that will help us to address gambling-related harm in our communities."
“We are not against the gambling industry per se, but we think that it is important to understand the impact on areas in which they operate. It is in the best interests of those running gambling premises to reduce these negative impacts. This research is a major step forward – it will make for better local decisions and help deliver real practical change to people’s lives.”
Heather Wardle, Geofutures, said, “Our maps show the places in Westminster and Manchester where those people most at risk from gambling harm are likely to be. This gives both local authorities and any gambling operators a unique opportunity to use this insight in their local area risk assessments. There is a great chance here for new policies and procedures to be put in place to protect vulnerable people in each area.”
The Gambling Commission’s lead for shared regulation, Rob Burkitt, welcomed the publication. He said, “This report marks another significant milestone in equipping licensing authorities with the tools they need to develop a local area profile that can inform their Statement of Policy and approach to licensing and compliance. The Commission will continue to work closely with all concerned in disseminating this work and identifying how it may best be developed further.”
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council's executive member for neighbourhoods, said, "People living with gambling problems do not draw attention to themselves, and the issue has been very hard for authorities to deal with because so little is known about who these people are."
"This is a cutting edge piece of research that has never been done before, and will enable us to understand who is at risk of developing a gambling problem and where these groups can be found. We will be able to use this information whenever we develop new policies to deal with gambling venues across the city."
Councillor Tony Page, the Local Government Association’s licensing spokesman, said, “The LGA is very pleased to have supported this project, and with the tools that have been produced from it. Licensing authorities and gambling operators all have a responsibility to help protect those who are vulnerable to harm from gambling, and this ground-breaking research will be of huge assistance in ensuring their efforts to protect people are properly targeted."
“The LGA supported this work in order that the findings could be made available to all licensing authorities, and we will be working with Westminster, Manchester and Geofutures to discuss the best way to ensure other authorities are able to make use of this approach in the future.”