Firstly, may I wish readers a very happy new year. We didn’t run a newsletter last week due to a lack of news, but this week has more than compensated. Let’s get started…
With the UK entering its third national lockdown in the space of 10 months, the UK Gambling Commission has again reminded operators of their responsibilities concerning Responsible Gambling.
The UKGC expects operators to follow the same guidance that was released last March, but highlighted that even more caution is now required due to the number of “isolated and vulnerable” people spending more time at home indoors. More targeted and general communication on Safer Gambling has been suggested.
The Commission has urged operators to “avoid any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell products” while particular care must be taken regarding the onboarding of new customers.
The fact that elite sport is ongoing this time, as opposed to it being cancelled during the lockdown last Spring, has also been highlighted as a reason for additional vigilance.
Betting and Gaming Council
Staying in the UK, and the Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has again reiterated his desire for the review of the 2005 Gambling Act to be led by facts not fiction.
Writing in Politics Home, Michael Dugher stressed that “there is too much fiction swirled around the debate of gambling”. Dugher also blasted the prohibitionists, saying the UK stats on problem gambling are low by international standards and have largely been static over the last 20 years.
He said: “Most recently, prohibitionists sadly chose to spread images on social media of children wearing football kits with imitation betting firm logos on them answering the door to their favourite players.
“The kids are then able to have a bet on a football game. This may be emotive, but it’s also mendacious and irresponsible.”
The BGC and its members already adopt a zero-tolerance approach to underage gambling and welcome the proposed raising of the National Lottery minimum age to 18. The BGC has also put the prevention of underage gambling at the forefront of the ‘Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising’.
UK Gambling Review
Earlier in the week, a letter to MPs was being circulated calling on lawmakers to pressure the Gambling Commission to rethink its approach to the horse racing industry in the forthcoming review.
The reforms could potentially see the industry lose up to £60million at a time when the pandemic has hit horse racing hard. Affordability checks seem to be the main issue for the racetracks, with the argument being put forward that betting on horses is ‘skill-based’ and should be treated differently to gambling on casino and slots as it’s less likely to trigger addictive behaviour.
The Guardian reported that part of the letter reads: “I am reliably informed that the proposals put forward by the Gambling Commission could result in more than £60million in direct losses to the British racing industry from reduced Horserace Betting Levy and media rights income. This would be amplified many times over through the wider rural economy and potentially lead to racecourses closing.
“The Gambling Commission’s proposed action would be disproportionate to the small number of people who suffer harm from betting on racing, as well as being a very significant invasion on personal liberty in the free society in which we live. At a time when racing and the British economy are trying to recover from COVID-19, a rushed intervention like this would also significantly set back recovery.”
Dark clouds are continuing to loom for the racing industry, with the Daily Mail reporting this week that the DCMS has refused to review both the duties and timetable of the betting levy.
The newspaper reports that DCMS sports minister Nigel Huddleston has said that reviewing the levy will not fall under the remit of the 2005 Gambling Act reforms, despite the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) having made this request due to the impact of COVID-19 on racing.
Distinguished medical journal The Lancet have said it will set up its first commission on gambling, aiming to study what it calls an “urgent, neglected, understudied and worsening public health predicament”.
The Lancet says that problem gambling and addiction are increasingly viewed as health-harming addictive behaviours and says more science-led research in this area is required.
The World Health Organisation has said the prevalence of gambling disorders in adults varies from 0.1% to 5.8% while gambling addiction is now recognized in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11) and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5).
“Gambling is a source of potentially serious and wide-ranging harms, affecting an individual’s health, wealth, and relationships,” The Lancet stated. “It affects whole families and communities, and can become a lifelong struggle to avoid relapse.
“There is an urgent need to assess and understand the barriers and facilitators to preventing gambling-related health harms.”
They continued: “The normalisation of gambling in many countries, its widespread and easy accessibility, and governments’ addiction to revenues from gambling could be a threat to reaching the sustainable development goals.
“The growth of commercial gambling across sub-Saharan Africa and the so-called gamblification of sports over recent years deserves closer scrutiny, not least because gambling can deepen poverty.”
It has been an incredibly busy week for British gambling charity GambleAware, who have appointed Zoe Osmond as new CEO. She will replace outgoing CEO Marc Etches in March.
Osmond is currently GambleAware’s Communications and Engagement Director, with the charity highlighting the strong results she has delivered in guiding the charity’s multi-million-pound safer gambling and treatment campaigns.
Kicking off the new year, GambleAware will also launch the next step of their marketing strategy to promote their National Gambling Treatment Service.
The ‘Start to Regain Control’ campaign will be rolled out during the first six months of 2021 and will target vulnerable adults in the most ‘at-risk regions’ across the UK, including London and the Midlands.
Radio, digital platforms and local press will all be utilized, with data supporting the target phrase highlighting the key regions they will be focusing upon.
Osmond said: “So far the campaign has proven to be successful in encouraging people to contact the National Gambling Treatment Service for support, but there is still more to be done.
“During the pandemic and this extremely difficult time for people, it is vital that we continue to ensure those in need of help understand what services are available to them, which is why we are taking this targeted approach to help reach those high-risk areas across Great Britain.”
Some of the funding is likely to come from donations to the charity, with over £4.5m being raised during the first three-quarters of their 2020/21 financial period. Flutter donated the most with £874,000 during the period from 1 April to 31 December, with bet365 adding £763,000 and William Hill £540,000.
Meanwhile, GambleAware’s Safer Gambling Campaign received £3.9m in donations from operators in 2020, and £1.1m from broadcasters. Flutter led the way here too with £683,847. Entain (GVC) donated the second-highest amount with £643,847, followed by bet365 (£580,898) and Stars Group (£565,000).
Some international stories now, and in a similar vein to our reports last year from the UK, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) in Canada has urged financial institutions to play a greater role in protecting people from gambling-related harm.
BCLC director of player health Jamie Wiebe told the New Horizons in Responsible Gambling that banks introducing tools to help customers control their behaviour will benefit operators’ own strategies.
He said: “Banks have an important role to play in helping gambling operators better understand the relationship between their customers’ spending and gambling behaviours, which helps the gambling industry enhance our tools in response.
“As the industry looks to support the health and wellbeing of our players overall, it’s critical that we engage with other industries in these important discussions that identify new learnings that help shape our collective approach.”
In France, the ANJ (l’Autorité Nationale des Jeux) has taken control of the country’s self-exclusion scheme with the intent of modernizing the service. The new service is set to be managed completely online, removing the need to register at a police station, which presented a huge barrier to at-risk and vulnerable people. There will also be a full review undertaken of France’s gambling laws and support structures, with public health and protecting minors being the top priorities.
Finally, data coming out of Lithuania suggests that the number of young people self-excluding declined in 2020, but the rates for women and those between 31-40 increased.
17,348 people excluded themselves from gambling during 2020, a rise when compared to the 2019 figures, but the proportion of self-excluded gamblers in the 18-20 age group went down from 9% to 6%.
“This small change is a possible sign that younger people are starting to look at their gambling more responsibly and that an aid measure such as a limitation on gambling is not necessary for them,” the Lithuanian Gambling Supervisory Authority said.
Most people who self-excluded were in the 21-40 age bracket, but the proportion of 21-30-year-olds declined from 52% to 48%, with the 31-40 age group increasing from 36% to 42%.
Men represented 90% of those self-excluding, as opposed to 10% women. It was 93:7% in 2019.
Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media