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“As a former professional athlete, I looked for ways out from how I was thinking, and gambling gave me that,” says ex-professional footballer Scott Davies, who suffered from a gambling addiction.
“It took away all my thoughts whilst in the midst of placing bets, until the day came to a close and reality struck. The reality that I had just caused more destruction to my life and finances.”
Davies now serves as Lead Professional Sport Facilitator at EPIC Risk Management, the leading provider of consultancy, advisory and education in the area of problem gambling.
Through his work at EPIC, Davies now uses his experiences to educate and help athletes who may be struggling with gambling-related issues.
Education is essential, as he tells the Leaders Performance Institute: “I feel that learning from others’ mistakes is powerful in spreading the message on how something that started as a bit of fun, turned into a problem and in the latter days an addiction.”
EPIC’s mission is to take the problem out of gambling and individuals such as Davies work across the highest risk sectors for gambling harm, EPIC draws on lived experience to help organisations minimise the risks posed by problem gambling.
That experience is essential when working across some of the hardest to reach sectors, which often means helping organisations to navigate a subject which is quickly becoming one of the greatest risks to their organisation.
“We are a trusted partner to over 125,000 organisations and individuals across the world in the highest risk, hardest to reach populations,” says John Millington, EPIC Risk Management’s Head of US Operations. This includes professional sport, education, financial services, the gambling industry, criminal justice and the armed forces. “We work closely with these partners to ensure a lasting and sustainable impact.”
That impact is achieved through using a combination of hard-hitting, lived experience with industry research and expertise. He adds: “EPIC delivers market leading education, prevention and awareness, as well as training programs focused on identification of, and interaction with those at risk of gambling harm. Utilising our significant industry experience, we provide advisory services to help organisations better understand their own duty of care to those exposed to these risks.
“Culture change, policy creation, media and marketing responsibility, risk and reputation management, and advisory on fit for purpose treatment pathways and referral processes are just some of the issues that EPIC helps our partners to navigate successfully.”
EPIC’s message is hitting home across the sports performance space. “The feedback we have received from professional athletes in all sports has been overwhelming, praising us for our honesty and bravery in telling my own story which had a huge impact on my life.”
Access to gambling education and support in pro sport
EPIC provides impactful and proven awareness, education and risk management programs for elite professional athletes, management teams, clubs and governing bodies around the world. As trusted partner to leading global sports organisations such as The English Football League, Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester City, The Rugby Players’ Association, Irish Rugby, the Professional Cricketers Association, and a number of UEFA sanctioned European football leagues, EPIC has worked with over 20,000 elite sports men and women to date.
“We make athletes aware of the potentially destructive financial, health and performance implications that out-of-control gambling can cause,” says Millington. “The work we do enables athletes to make better-informed decisions, reducing distraction and maximising performance whilst also evaluating their own and their teammates’ relationship with gambling.”
“I certainly wish I had been given the opportunity to attend a gambling education and awareness session before the success and money came,” adds Davies, in reflection. “I can’t say for certain, but I would like to think it would have given me more knowledge around gambling and I would have been able to make a more informed choice on the decisions I went on to make. The majority of which I am not proud of.”
Through EPIC’s diverse programmes, which are based on extensive experience and first of its kind research, the team covers a variety of subjects, including gambling-related harm, betting integrity, where and how to access help, and how to spot the signs of potential problematic gambling behaviour.
“Our five-year partnership with the English Football League,” explains Millington, “has seen us deliver the largest and most penetrative gambling education and prevention programme ever completed in sport, delivering to more than 3,000 professional footballers, coaches and staff, whilst engaging a wider audience on this important topic through in excess of 15 million social media impressions.
“Our success in year one of this programme led to the Belgian FA and UEFA engaging EPIC to deliver a similar programme across the Division A and Division B of the Jupiler Pro League. This programme would be used to enhance their betting integrity education for each club.”
EPIC have now been chosen by GVC Foundation US, a first of its kind non-profit foundation, to replicate these successful programs across the US professional sport landscape, and with NCAA Universities. “Thanks to a significant investment from GVC Foundation US, EPIC are educating thousands of professional and student athletes who will be greater exposed to the risks of gambling harm as the nascent sports betting market in America grows at significant pace.”
What the research tells us
Gambling has become a socially acceptable activity over the years due to things such as advertising, social media and sophisticated technology which contributed to the normalisation process.
However, problem gambling has been a serious concern over the past 10-15 years with it affecting 7% of the world population. Athletes are a key focus for researchers in the gambling context as they are more at risk than non-athletes. A study in 2004 investigated American college students and their gambling behaviour and found that rates of problem gambling were almost double in student-athletes relative to student non-athletes.
Research and experience tell us that athletes are at a higher risk of having a negative relationship with gambling due to their high degree of competitiveness and increased risk-taking behaviours. Problem gambling is associated with social, psychological, mental health and financial issues which directly impact the athletic performance. This highlights the importance of educational programmes regarding safer gambling.
Derevensky, et al. 2019
Engwold et al. 2004
Metheson, et al. 2019
Montes and Weatherly, 2017
Weiss and Loubier, 2010
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