It has been a rather bitty week in the world of Safer Gambling, with a number of small stories without an overarching narrative. Here’s what has been happening.
The issue of loot boxes was heavily discussed over the Easter period, with various media agencies reporting that the link between them and problem gambling has been “robustly verified”.
The coverage was based on a report commissioned by GambleAware and conducted by researchers at Plymouth and Wolverhampton universities, who concluded that loot boxes ‘are structurally and psychologically akin to gambling’ and that a large number of children are opening them.
Furthermore, they found that many games employ a ‘psychological nudge’ to encourage people to buy loot boxes, with some spending upwards of £70/month. These 5% of gamers generate half of the revenue obtained from loot boxes, despite these people not necessarily being particularly wealthy.
“Many gamers do ascribe discrete financial values to loot box contents – based on purchase or resale price – suggesting that many loot boxes meet existing criteria for gambling regulation,” the report says.
“Our research therefore demonstrates that games developers, unwittingly or not, appear to be generating outsized loot box profits from at-risk individuals (these are likely to include both people with gambling problems or problematic patterns of video gaming) – but not from wealthy gamers.”
The findings are timely considering loot boxes are part of the ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act. The report provides a number of recommendations for this, including the odds of winning items being clearly displayed, the introduction of spending limits, and loot boxes being taken into consideration with regards to age ratings as well as labelling for games.
Concerns over loot boxes have been expressed in numerous territories recently, with Brazil being the latest to investigate whether they contravene the law. A potential ban could be the outcome.
In the US, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) released follow up reports to their National Survey of Gambling Attitudes and Gambling Experiences (NGAGE) 1.0, providing further information on gambling trends both at a national and state level. It is the largest and most detailed survey concerning gambling attitudes across the American public, producing over 170 graphs based on the data received from more than 28,000 respondents. The survey was sponsored by Entain Group and conducted by Ipsos in an independent capacity.
The conclusions include that sports bettors exhibit more indicators of ‘problematic play’ than non-sports bettors including having ‘lied to hide gambling’ as well as relying on others to pay bills or debts.
It also highlighted that players who are under the age of 35 are far more likely to develop gambling related problems, with many people who gamble failing to understand how gambling actually works.
NCPG executive Director Keith Whyte stated: “We hope the new reports spur the public and private sectors to redouble their efforts to implement policies and allocate resources to create a safer gambling environment, as well as assist those who show signs of gambling addiction or are in recovery.
“While organizations like the National Council on Problem Gambling will use this data to help make those goals a reality, any entity that interacts with the gambling industry will benefit from better understanding public sentiment about gambling as America undergoes an unprecedented amount of gambling expansion, especially sports betting.”
A second survey is due to be conducted in a year’s time, which will provide the first opportunity to assess any changes in attitudes over a 12-month period. Its findings are likely to aid both the industry and regulators regarding both legal policy and where to direct financial assistance going forward.
Staying stateside and UFC have joined the PGA Tour, NHL and NASCAR in backing the AGA’s ‘Have A Game Plan. Bet Responsibly’ public service campaign.
UFC will use its full suite of digital assets to promote the American Gaming Association’s responsible gambling initiative, using co-branded material in-venue and on broadcast channels too.
“We have the most passionate, die-hard fans of any sport and they love to bet on UFC, but it’s important they do it responsibly,” UFC president Dana White said.
“We’re proud to work with the AGA and get behind this campaign to encourage our fans to make smart decisions and promote responsible gaming.”
Late on Thursday, Gamban announced they have partnered with RG24seven, a video-based Responsible Gaming training platform, on a new initiative that will see the production of a training course on self-exclusion for gaming employees in the United States.
RG24seven CEO Wendy Anderson said: “We are very proud that Gamban has chosen to partner with RG24seven to produce this important content on self-exclusion. The training course titled ‘The Journey to Self-Exclusion’, presented by Gamban, will be providing important information for RG24seven’s trainees on all aspects of self-exclusion for online gamblers.”
Meanwhile, Jack Symons, CEO and co-founder of Gamban, continued: “We are very excited to be working with RG24seven to begin creating awareness and understanding of the need for an effective and long-lasting support infrastructure for those experiencing the effects of problem gambling throughout the United States. We see this as the beginning of creating a sustainable player protection model for the gaming industry in the United States.”
Moving back to the UK and it was revealed on Thursday that GamCare has received two years’ of funding to expand their specialist treatment and support services for problem gambling across the British penal system.
This will enable GamCare to enhance their ‘Nationwide Programme’, which aims to increase the access to treatment across all areas of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). GamCare believe the link between crime and gambling-related harm is often underplayed, stressing that both CJS staff and offenders need greater support to aid rehabilitation.
GamCare have also worked extensively with The Howard League with the aim of reforming the penal system, highlighting to both judiciaries and authorities that problem gambling is a mental health disorder that can lead to crime.
Anna Hemmings, the CEO of GamCare, said: “As outlined in our recent submission to the Howard League Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling, our work focuses on a ‘whole systems’ approach – with initiatives to screen people at arrest and the early stages of the CJS, and responding to needs at various stages in their journey, be it through police, prison, or probation services as well as the courts.”
The project has been backed by the UK Gambling Commission as part of their National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, with its executive director, Tim Miller, saying: “We welcome the extension of this significant project, including the collaborative approach GamCare has taken to support a wide range of organisations working in the criminal justice sector.
“Together, these programmes of work have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to reducing harms as part of the National Strategy. We are pleased to be able to approve the funding, which was agreed through regulatory settlements.”
In other news, a surge in the number of registrations in January and February has seen over 200,000 people in total sign up for Gamstop‘s online self-exclusion services.
The surge is partly attributed to a change in gambling regulation, which has seen all online operators having to be registered with Gamstop since 31 March 2020. The majority of registrants – nearly three in five – are between 18 and 34 years of age, while the gender split is roughly 70:30 towards men.
In January 2021, 49,328 Gamstop users out of a total of 177,038 were successfully blocked by the scheme after attempting to gamble, with Gamstop saying this highlighted that ‘self-exclusion is not a silver bullet’ and that a joined-up, multi-faceted approach that combines both treatment and self-exclusion is key to tackling gambling-related harm is needed.
We are now a month away from local elections in the UK, which will also see elections take place for London Mayor. As part of his manifesto, incumbent Sadiq Kahn has pledged to ban gambling adverts on the London Underground in a similar approach to his junk food advertising ban three years ago.
“I’ve already banned body-shaming advertisements and advertisements for foods high in fat, salt and sugar on the TfL network because of their impact on the health of Londoners,” his manifesto states.
“Given the devastating way gambling addiction can destroy lives and families, I’ll instruct TfL to bring forward plans to extend the ban to harmful gambling advertisements on the network.”
This may not be welcome news to TfL due to the significant advertising revenue generated from gambling companies. The election takes place on 6 May.
On Friday, LeoVegas published their sustainability report, which highlighted a 293% increase in responsible gaming interactions in 2020 compared to 2019.
The total number of self-exclusions increased by 185.1% to 275,991 over the same period, with 24,638 responsible gambling customer reviews, up by 55.9%, also conducted. LeoVegas introduced a number of new initiatives including the LeoLine responsible chat line in 2019 which could account for these rises.
There were a couple of interesting long reads in the Times this week too, the first from EFL chairman Rick Parry, who again expressed his opposition to the proposed blanket ban on shirt sponsorship for gambling companies in the UK.
The second was from Lee Willows, the head of YGAM, on the 2005 Gambling Act review and why education is the key to reducing problem gambling.
Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media