Welcome along to another edition of the Safer Gambling newsletter.

UKGC

The week has been dominated by the publication of the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) ‘2020/2021 Annual Report & Accounts’ for the period up to 31 March 2021. In it, they also highlighted their performance and duties in relation to the governance of the UK gambling sector.

Due to the pandemic, in May 2020 the Commission implemented stricter compliance measures on operators, which included more rigorous checks on customer affordability, source-of-funds and ID verification requirements along with increased focus on one-to-one customer care and interventions.

This was supported by their Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP), with the Commission citing greater confidence in the outcomes of these policies.

They also had an increased focus on protecting customers from high-risk gambling, along with forcing operators to improve their online safety measures, including changing game design to reduce risk.

During the period, it was also reported there had been a 1% increase in the number of gamblers choosing to self-exclude, with around 245,000 adults in England classed as problem gamblers. Meanwhile, 1.2m exhibited a low-risk of gambling harm.

BGC

When it comes to age verification, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) lauded betting shops this week as it was revealed that they had more stringent measures on verifying age in comparison to convenience stores, supermarkets and petrol stations.

Figures from independent analysts Serve Legal, who conducted research using ‘secret shoppers’, showed that 90% of betting shops had asked these customers to prove their age. This compares to 83%, 77% and 76% for the aforementioned three sets of premises.

This also marks a significant improvement by the gambling industry as when these tests were first introduced, betting shops only scored 67%.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “Regulated BGC members have a zero-tolerance approach to under-18s betting and I am delighted to see that the age verification systems in place in betting shops are robust.

“By any measure, age verification standards have improved since they were first introduced and once again betting shops are leading the retail sector in terms of compliance.

“I want to pay tribute to betting shop staff who, like other retailers, have endured a very challenging year of closures, restrictions and fast-changing Covid-19 guidance. Despite those pressures, they have remained absolutely focused on ensuring the safety of customers and the protection of young people.

“The work we are doing in betting shops is also mirrored in the actions we are taking online, including new tools to prevent under-18s seeing betting adverts and new age verification checks on digital platforms such as YouTube. There’s more to be done and we encourage social media platforms to do more. We also need to ensure that customers continue to stay in the regulated industry – and not gamble with the unsafe, unregulated black market, where there are no checks or protections.

Charities

“Meanwhile, the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, funded by £10 million from BGC members and delivered by YGAM and GamCare, continues to make impressive inroads, reaching half a million young people in the first six months of this year.

“I am proud of the progress we are making in betting shops, online and in casinos. I am absolutely determined – as our members are – that we build on these achievements and continue to do more to protect young people.”

GambleAware this week appointed a chief operations officer, a chief commissioning officer and a chief communications officer as part of their new five-year strategy to expand their capacity and resources.

Alongside these positions were the appointments of a research, information and knowledge director, a head of programme and project management, prevention and evaluation leads, and a manager for fundraising and engagement.

Anna Hargrave, who has 13 years of experience in the NHS, will be the new chief commissioning officer, with her experience being seen as useful in the expansion of the National Gambling Treatment Service.

“I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to share my skills of working within the health and care system with GambleAware and look forward to working with the charity and other public health agencies, local authorities and organisations to help reduce gambling harms,” Hargrave said.

Meanwhile, the former marketing director at Public Health England, Alexia Clifford, will be the new chief communications officer, having led government public health campaigns on things like anti-smoking, healthy eating and mental health. She is an expert in behavioural science and audience insight.

GambleAware chief executive Zoë Osmond said: “We are very pleased to welcome our new senior leaders, each of whom bring with them invaluable skills and knowledge in areas integral to the successful delivery of our new five-year organisational strategy.

“We are working hard to drive forward GambleAware’s new programme of work which demonstrates leadership in establishing, developing, and maintaining a coordinated network of services, including the expansion of the National Gambling Treatment Service.”

Netherlands

Moving to the Netherlands and the chair of the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), Rene Jansen, has reminded operators of the regulator’s ‘extra powers’ when it comes to tackling crime associated with gambling.

Articles 34a and 34n of the new Remote Gambling Act have enhanced the KSA’s powers, which include the right to close premises prior to an investigation and conducting home searches without a warrant.

Jansen said: “These are the extra powers that the KSA has been given to combat illegality and crime. In addition to protecting consumers and preventing gambling addiction, this is one of the main legal tasks of the KSA.

“With regard to Dutch gambling policy, there is more going on than just the imminent legalization and regulation of online games of chance. Other parts of the new legislation also contribute to creating a safe environment for people who want to participate in games of chance as much as possible.”

Finally, there are a few long reads to while away your Friday afternoon.

Media

On Wednesday, Tero Paivarinta, the Head of Accounts at Mr. Gamble, detailed why affiliates must embrace licensing if true player protection is ever going to be realised.

Stressing his belief that the US model will fast become the norm, he says that even in territories where you do not need a license, affiliates should still follow best practices. He cited the UK, highlighting how the onus is placed on an operator’s relationship with their affiliates through stringent requirements. He also says it is up to affiliates to only promote reputable operators and that affiliates can help by being transparent, as well as publishing thorough guides on safer gambling.

In SBC, the Chief Executive of BetKnowMore, Frankie Graham, stressed his belief that the UK can become a global leader in player protection.

He says through establishing a culture of education and staff training within operators, the UK gambling industry can become increasingly sustainable, particularly as modern customers value both transparency and trust. He also highlighted the importance of ‘lived experience’ in relation to this training.

Finally, in a prelude to Responsible Gaming Week in the US, which runs from 19-25 September, Cait DeBaun, the Vice President, Strategic Communications & Responsibility for the American Gaming Association, detailed more about the AGA’s Have A Game Plan: Bet Responsibly campaign.

The article touches on a range of initiatives including product development, training, self-exclusion, problem gambling helplines, the power of blocking sites and the Kindbridge telehealth revolution. It also focuses on the AGA’s partner organisations and how a safer gambling message is being disseminated.

It’s a fully holistic piece and provides a good foundation ahead of Responsible Gaming Week, which will focus on how these provisions can be expanded to meet the evolving needs of customers.

Andrew Morgan, Dam Mad Media