In tandem with an expansion of its transatlantic operations, EPIC Risk Management has reported success in its founding country.
The gambling harm minimisation consultancy detailed that during the 2021/22 financial year it reached a total of 34,759 students across UK schools and colleges with educational material, funded independently without industry contributions.
Of this total, 13,821 students across 84 state schools received educational content free of charge via EPIC’s Gambling Harm Education programme in partnership with WHYSUP and Teen Tips, with the remainder attending independent schools.
Patrick Foster, Head of Delivery for Education and CSR at EPIC Risk Management, said: “If that’s how many we’ve spoken to directly, goodness knows how many brothers, sisters and family members have heard it via that trickle effect – it’s probably far wider.
“For all of us who facilitate, the bit where it hits home the most is that pupil who comes up to you and says ‘I have somebody at home who really struggles with this and I now have an understanding of what they’re going through’ or ‘I’m struggling with this myself; this has made me think about my behaviours’ and we’re able to support them.
“That’s what we cherish the most, but I think what’s scary is how often that happens and emphasises the need and relevance for what we do.”
Throughout the year, EPIC was able to visit 191 schools across the UK’s four home nations, providing face-to-face and online educational support to 34,759 students, marking a return of the former resources after the long-distance learning of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Moving forward, the consultancy plans to enhance the resources provided on video game loot boxes to younger people, with Foster noting that there are ‘methods of gambling that sit outside the regulations’.
The consultancy recently expressed disappointment at the DCMS policy on video game platforms, which stated that parental locks should be applied on loot box purchases, arguing that this measure does not go far enough.
“What we know from the work we do is that loot boxes are a huge issue; it’s providing a gateway to gambling and can’t be ignored,” Foster continued. “A lot of the pupils, parents and teachers that talk to us indicate that’s how it’s manifesting itself.
“It’s a message that we will continue to beat and look to incorporate more and more into our sessions, using lived experience. There is a real need for it and can’t be ignored – that’s the message that’s most pertinent to those age groups.”
In addition to loot boxes, the firm has also identified the emergence of cryptocurrency and NFT trading platforms as a potential area of risk to younger consumers.
NFTs have become increasingly popular over the past two years, and have been leveraged as a form of fan engagement and revenue generation by a range of sports organisations, whilst also attracting interest from betting companies such as Entain and DraftKings.
The rise of these digital assets has attracted some controversy and concern from both gambling harm minimisation advocates as well as regulators, however, due to the nature of such products to fluctuate in value.
Notably, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) conducted an evaluation of Sorare last year, to determine if the NFT fantasy sports platform could be consisted as a gambling provider.
Foster remarked: “The emergence of cryptocurrency trading and NFTs are new mediums in which young people are engaging with online risk-taking behaviours and the exposure and accessibility to them make them elements within the gambling landscape that cannot be ignored.
“The popularity of these types of gambling related activities are of huge concern to many parents and schools that we work with.
“People can have their opinions on whether they’re a form of gambling, but ultimately they can result in the same behaviours and carry the same dangers and pitfalls, so that’s something we’re particularly looking to keep adding into our delivery.”
Moving forward, EPIC has detailed plans to expand its operations and deliver educational content remotely in Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, India and Southeast Asia, following positive feedback from UK students who have received the material.