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Epic Risk Management’s betting education programme reached nearly 35,000 students from UK schools and colleges last financial year.

In 2021/22, the company said its curriculum was delivered to 34,759 students across all four home nations, a curriculum centred around responsible betting and funded independently of the gambling industry.

Sessions were delivered either face-to-face or via online resources, with 191 schools visited, including 84 state schools.

A total of 13,821 students at state schools received the programme for free as a result of the holistic Gambling Harm Education scheme, delivered in partnership with WHYSUP and Teen Tips.

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.”

After a disrupted academic year 12 months ago, the 2021/22 term has provided a much safer platform for the delivery team to hit the road, with all but seven of the schools inviting the lived experience team to come and tell their powerful story in person – something that Foster believes is crucial in making the message hit home.

Foster said: “The impact of face-to-face delivery and having someone stood up in front of an audience has been so evident to us this year.

“Part of that is a legacy of Covid, with schools having had to digest so much material through online resources. As a result, we’re going to offer even more face-to-face sessions in future, but we understand that there is a place for digital dissemination too, because it offers so much additional reach and it’s instant.

“It also helps us to reach the parents because they need to be fully educated and informed on this; the onus is placed on the individual, but increased awareness for parents about the issue is huge.

“EPIC believe strongly that no one under the age of 18 should be able to gamble in any form, but regrettably this is not the case due to methods of gambling that sit outside the regulations. This needs addressing and makes education more important.”

An area in which EPIC hope to add even greater value to the programme in 2022/23 is to enhance the level of information provided on loot boxes within video games, which are undoubtedly the most accessible method for the 15 to 18-year-old audiences to interact with a form of gambling.

Foster added: “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. 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.

“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.”