It has been an incredibly quiet week in the world of Safer Gambling, perhaps due to May Day celebrations in a number of countries.
Most of the news has come out of the UK, with the Daily Telegraph reporting on Tuesday that affordability checks will be sidelined as part of the Government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
The suggestion of enforced checks on all UK gamblers wagering more than £100/month had been submitted as part of the review but has been one of the more controversial issues amongst stakeholders. Now, the Telegraph says such requirements will be ‘watered down or shelved completely’.
The change of heart has come about since the Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) took direct involvement in the review, with the DCMS favouring reforming the role of the UK Gambling Commission in light of criticism directed towards it following the collapse of Football Index in March.
The decision was made in line with the objectives set out in their ‘Business Strategy 2018-2021’, with the specific aim of protecting customer interests, raising industry standards and improving regulation.
All information and opinions regarding two consultations that UKGC conducted in 2019 have been published. These focused on whether an ‘outright ban on credit cards’ or ‘restricting the use of credit services’ would be preferable.
One hundred and twenty-eight written responses were submitted from a wide range of stakeholders, while Gamcare and the Gordon Moody Association coordinated and entered responses from 71 and 15 individual treatment service users respectively. Licensed operators and trade bodies submitted 19.
The data gathered pointed to the conclusion that “credit cards are disproportionately used for gambling by individuals who are experiencing harm”, while a particular response highlighted a ‘tracker survey’ which revealed that “22% of credit card gamblers were problem gamblers, 25% were experiencing moderate levels of harm and 20% lower levels of harm”.
Research agency 2CV also submitted data on 475 people who gambled with credit cards, with similar conclusions reached on the link between problem gambling and credit card betting.
While there was pushback from ‘some operators and financial services’, the Commission stated that their responses failed to address the interrelated causes of harms that could be worsened by the financial hardships induced of at-risk consumers borrowing money to gamble.
On Thursday, League Two football club Forest Green Rovers announced their backing of the “Big Step” campaign, whose aim is to stop all gambling sponsorship and advertising in football.
“Big Step” is run by Gambling With Lives, a charity founded to help those who have been lost loved ones due to gambling-related harm.
The intervention is interesting as gambling sponsorship is often cited as being indispensable to the finances of lower league clubs and grassroots football. The campaign was set up to highlight the growing dependence football has on gambling.
James Grimes, Founder of the Big Step, said: “We’re delighted to have the support of Forest Green Rovers. This is a vital moment to secure meaningful gambling reform in the UK. As a recovering gambling addict and massive football fan, I’m passionate about ensuring the game is part of the solution to gambling harms.
“Our outdated gambling laws need to change, especially with the exponential rise of online gambling. Sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies is banned and we believe gambling should be the same. To be truly effective, shirt sponsorship, stadium promotions and another branding should not be visible during matches.”
Dale Vince OBE, Chairman of Forest Green Rovers, said: “It’s like gambling has taken over football.
“If you watch a game on TV you are inundated with ads – gambling logos are on almost half of Premier League shirts, and constantly flash up on pitch sideboards. For me, the fun already stopped. This is an abuse of football and of football fans.”
Betsson released their 2021 Q1 financial report this week, which dedicated a section to responsible gaming. Statistics revealed that ‘13.1% of Betsson’s customers used non-mandatory tools to control their gambling, while 31.9% of all new depositing customers during the quarter set a deposit limit.’
The company made a total of 77,987 customer interactions around responsible gambling, an increase relative to the same period last year. This was largely due to the lowering of the threshold for contact in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This was done to boost customer protection and increase detection of the early signs of problem gambling in these difficult times.
In the report, they also highlight the power of their Responsible Gaming Prediction Tool, with which Betsson customers must register to be able to play. The tool monitors gamblers’ actions using nearly 500 different parameters, while also adhering to GDPR and integrity considerations.
Finally, it was reported late last week that the number of calls to the problem gambling helpline in Michigan had increased significantly since the launch of online sports betting in January. In February, the number of calls increased fivefold to 563.
Speaking about the increase, Michelle Malkin, a PhD candidate studying problem gambling at Michigan State University’s school of justice said: “That’s huge growth. Casinos are at limited capacity right now because of the pandemic. The only thing that could really explain this is the growth of online gambling. Because that’s really the only big change that’s happened in Michigan.
“The biggest expansion has been through the internet. And each time there’s an expansion they’re getting a new crowd of people with the potential to end up being a problem gambler.”
She went on to stress the importance of education in dealing with problem gambling, stressing that Michigan must do more to inform young people and parents in particular. She said: “If anybody’s watching TV these days, they’re inundated with commercials about all the different ways to access online gambling. You’re not seeing an equal number of things about what to do if you have a problem.”
Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media