Dorset Council aims to protect residents from gambling harm

Dorset Council is taking action to prevent residents from being harmed by gambling in the current cost-of-living crisis, by partnering with Betsmart Consulting.

Studies have shown that people tend to gamble more, not less, when finances are restricted, so everyone concerned felt that this was the right time to act.

The Council issues licences to all local gambling businesses along with permits to premises offering certain types of gaming such as gaming machines in pubs. With this comes the power to check that businesses are being socially responsible by interacting with customers who may be experiencing gambling harm.

Cllr Laura Beddow, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Culture, Communities and Customer Services, said: “As the local authority, it is vital to help protect our most vulnerable residents from falling into deeper financial trouble during these tough times. By working with professional organisations like Betsmart, we can bring in bespoke expertise and work together to develop new approaches to support local gambling businesses, as well as recognise the powers we already have to protect the customers they serve.”

The partnership began at a recent event with Dorset Council’s Licensing Team receiving training from Betsmart on using their powers of inspection and enforcement to identify and act on non-compliance at gambling venues. The group then spent time engaging with some of Weymouth’s gambling premises, looking at how responsible design and supervision can help prevent crime and underage gambling. They also looked at how effective signposting to sources of help in seafront arcades and betting shops can support customers with gambling problems.

Louisa Clark, consultant with Betsmart Consulting who led the two-day event, said: “Many people are not aware that local authorities have a responsibility to make sure that their gambling businesses are protecting customers from gambling harm. The best way to do this is always going to be working closely with the licensed trade, especially when customer vulnerability might be higher due to unexpected financial challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis and the global pandemic.

“Dorset Council quite clearly care very deeply about protecting residents but also about supporting local businesses who are an integral part of the local economy and who have also been impacted by these challenges. The event has already sparked some great discussion about how the work can be rolled out more widely and how more can be done to protect residents.”

The event ended with an interactive training session with members of Dorset Council’s Licensing Committee, discussing the impact that gambling harm can have on individuals and communities. They also looked at plans to engage more widely with stakeholders when setting the future strategy for local gambling regulation.

Cllr Emma Parker, Chair of Dorset Council’s Licensing Committee, said: “I am so pleased we have been able to partner with Betsmart Consulting in this way. We know that gambling will be having an impact on some people during this cost-of-living crisis, so it’s important that both Dorset Council officers and elected members are fully informed on what they can do to ensure individuals are being looked after and local businesses are aware of their responsibilities when customers are gambling on their premises.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with their gambling, please visit the Be Gamble Aware website for free confidential support, or call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133.

If you run a gambling business and would like to speak to your Local Licensing team about enhancing your player protection programme, or if you are a resident with concerns about a local gambling premises, please call 01305 838028 or email

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