Gaming firm William Hill has launched a training programme for its 10,000-strong workforce to combat underage gambling in its retail outlets.

So far, 8,118 William Hill employees have attended half-day workshops to comply with legal obligations within the Gambling Act (2005).

Hadyn Bratt, learning and development manager, said: “The main focus of the training is around understanding the three licensing objectives in the Act. These include preventing gambling from being a source of crime and disorder; ensuring gambling is conducted in a fair and open manner; and protecting children and vulnerable persons from being exploited by gambling.”

The training was aimed at every member of the retail team from customer service assistants to shop managers and field-based management teams, added Bratt.

“It was designed to increase their knowledge and understanding of the licensing objectives but also to assist team members with the practical application of those objectives in our licensed betting offices.”

Initially, the firm’s area training officers underwent a programme delivered by training provider Stonebow so they could in turn train more groups. Then, in December last year, the area training officers rolled out sessions for staff working across 2,300 of William Hill’s licensed betting offices, explained Bratt.

“As front-line members of staff, they are the first point of contact for potential underage gamblers. Therefore the training sessions were designed to empower retail employees to understand their responsibilities, so that they can take necessary steps to prevent any fraudulent activity.

"The training delivered to staff included understanding the regulatory framework, the legal responsibilities of shop-floor managers and how to handle and check identification documents as well as other regulatory requirements, such as money laundering.”

A further 2,000 staff still have to attend this training before the end of October 2010, he added.

One of the main challenges faced by William Hill’s learning and development team was the scale of the training operation, explained Bratt.

“With 10,000-plus staff to be taken off-site to training venues - not only was this difficult in itself but our operations managers were challenged with keeping our shops trading and maintaining service quality to our customers. As this requirement is new to our management teams, we had to balance the need to achieve the roll-out plan with an understanding of the implications for the operations team, which on the whole I think we’ve achieved.”

William Hill invested 30 per cent of its learning and development budget on this training programme, said Bratt.