Annual Report: Gambling Watch Scotland

7 January 2022

Gambling Watch Scotland is a website which began on 18 January 2021. It’s primary aim was to host a video interview with Martin who has experienced and recovered from severe gambling damage.

It also intended to act as a source of news about developments in Scotland and elsewhere in relation to reducing gambling harms. It had hoped to publish blog stories by people affected and to establish a forum for discussion.

Interaction with the website has been extremely low. It has attracted 2,000 visitors but it has not produced engagement. The forum section was therefore removed as one more unnecessary administrative task for the site editor. Also removed was the Magazine section which was an attempt to daily search for and publish relevant material relating to gambling harms: this attracted very few visitors.

The site was made possible by an award from Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS to address stigma which, by raising awareness, the website has attempted to do. The terms of the award demanded that the project work within the health authority’s borders. However, it was felt justified to cover all of Scotland because developments in Greater Glasgow and Clyde are inextricable from the wider context. However, it was planned to publish a subsidiary website  Glasgow Gambling Summit in September 2021 reflected the general Scottish context, and, indeed, beyond Scotland. In any case, since the website project has not resulted in engagement at the time of writing, there seems little point in progressing an online Greater Glasgow and Clyde project, though it is hoped, of course, that some seeds may have fallen on good soil.

It’s important to understand that Gambling Watch Scotland is conceived as part of the wider work of The Machine Zone Community Interest Company. It is very important to understand that this is run by two volunteers with limited skills and time. Within these limits the large majority of the company’s work has become focused upon the completion and distribution of the professionally produced film One Last Spin. In the confused recesses of pandemic history this was originally conceived as a film for the Gambling Watch website. The Covid constraints made this impossible to achieve, and the interview with Martin on the site while important viewing in its own right, represents a promise rather than an end. As it happened, One Last Spin developed in scope and ambition, and required fund raising efforts to support the production. This funding has been for crewing, location hire, props hire, professional post-production (such as colouring, sound mixing, music composition, graphic design). The overall costs are considerably reduced because the Director, Ross Donald, has given his time pro bono. Overall, the degree of good will and hard resourcing has been brilliant. That two ordinary people could find such support may offer encouragement to anybody beginning the lonely and often bewildering journey of grassroots activism in any area of concern.

While the film is designed primarily for community events throughout Scotland the plan is to begin in Greater Glasgow and Clyde. In addition there will be online events curated in Glasgow. A hope is that recovery communities that have customarily dealt with substance behaviours may begin conversations about gambling, and that mental health recovery organisations begin to include it in their agenda.

The film will be entered into film festivals. This precludes its being in the public domain. When the festival run is completed,  the aim is to embed the film in a professionally designed website available globally.

Given the resource and time constraints Gambling Watch Scotland will continue quietly with more modest aims than previously. It will monitor the developments so many organisations are working on in Scotland and keep people up to date. To a large extent the intentions of such development by various organisations make Gambling Watch Scotland very much a minor player in raising awareness about gambling harms. However, the site will do everything it can to emphasise the intense importance of lived experience.

The site will continue to invite blog posts from the grassroots. While such contributions will include personal stories of gambling careers it will recognise the valuable intelligence of many campaigners which allows for focus upon broader structural contexts.

In summary. The website is part of a wider project which will soon contribute to community engagement in Greater Glasgow and Clyde while concurrently working throughout Scotland and beyond. It will locate itself within the developments in Greater Glasgow and Clyde which are based upon expertise, relatively greater power, and resources. The website will considerably scale down it original ambitions. It will try to encourage contributions from the voices of lived experience and will always work as closely and respectfully as possible with others who are doing the same.

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