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Join us for another round-up of all the weeks happenings in safer gambling.
GambleAware Annual Conference
GambleAware’s annual conference took place this week, with Interim Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission, Andrew Rhodes, saying the UKGC would no longer tolerate repeat offenders.
While the Commission supported the key theme of the conference – deeper collaboration to prevent gambling harms – he stressed that many operators were still not taking their responsibilities seriously.
He stated: “In an ideal world, the Commission would have little to do beyond licensing operators. But that is far from the case… We are no way near that at this point in time. There is simply too much harm from gambling as a result of too little compliance amongst too many operators.”
“We are seeing the same companies committing the same offences for second or even third times. It’s a recidivist behaviour, and I have a concern that those operators are starting to see fines as a compliance measure, that is something that we are not prepared to tolerate,” he continued, before stressing that “penalties were no substitute for raising standards”.
He also said that the industry’s concerns about the prospect of tougher regulation pushing people to black market operators were overblown.
At the same conference, gambling minister Chris Philp said that an affordability cap and single customer view (SCV) are both being considered as part of the Government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Having met people dealing with problem gambling since being appointed to the role three months ago, he stressed that one of his main aims is to shield customers from losses they cannot afford.
He said: “In my first months I have met a broad range of gambling stakeholders and people involved in preventing harm, including clinicians and people with personal experience. I’ve heard too many stories about people losing obviously unaffordable sums of money, not prevented by operators who had data to stop it from happening.
“Through our review, I want to make sure we are doing much more to protect that minority of gamblers who are suffering life-changing harms and to prevent others from falling into that position.”
Having conducted a consultation at the beginning of the year, he said that the Government would publish its white paper on gambling reform in the next few months.
He went on to cite the data sharing that already takes place in the financial sector, saying that a SCV approach in the gambling industry could enable operators to have a greater gauge of a player’s overall affordability risk as they would know more than just the player’s gambling history with that one operator. However, Philp did highlight data privacy concerns as being important in setting this up.
On an affordability cap, he said that he backed the general idea of customers having to demonstrate any gambling above a certain threshold is affordable to them but said that this amount must be higher than £100, a figure suggested in a 2019 UKGC consultation. He stated: “To be workable and prevent harm, affordability checks need to be proportionate.
“As the Commission has said, demanding payslips or bank statements from every customer spending £100 or so is likely to be unwelcome, disruptive and disproportionate to the risks. But there is a level that is appropriate.
“The Commission will soon publish more on its requirements around interventions and we will continue to work closely with them on affordability in the run-up to publishing our white paper.”
Philp also said the Government is looking to boost the Gambling Commission’s data capabilities to enable it to regulate more effectively. Furthermore, despite highlighting a number of positive initiatives, including the ban on credit card gambling, Philp stressed “on a more day to day basis, I want the Commission to excel in holding the industry to account”.
Betting and Gaming Council
Michael Dugher of the Betting and Gaming Council said ahead of Philp’s speech that the Government should be putting child protection at the “front and centre” of the white paper.
Dugher highlighted the 15 measures that BGC members had adopted in this area in the last two years, including the formation of a £10m ‘Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme’ in collaboration with YGAM and GamCare. Age-gating controls on social media were another initiative cited, along with stricter age verification in shops and a Code of Conduct on advertising which includes the whistle-to-whistle ban on betting adverts on TV.
Dugher said: “We strongly support the Government’s Gambling Review, which highlighted the protection of children and vulnerable people in a fair and open gambling economy as one of the Government’s main priorities. We, therefore, hope that child protection will be front and centre of the forthcoming white paper.
“It is clear that the steps BGC members have taken over the previous two years are now providing results.”
He continued: “Our members will continue to drive further changes to prevent under-18s and other vulnerable groups from being exposed to gambling advertising online. We are not complacent, and protecting young people remains our top priority as we continue raising standards across the regulated industry.”
This week, GambleAware also announced the granting of £300K to two consortia – one from Ipsos MORI and the University of Manchester, the other from ClearView Research – which will work collaboratively. The stated aim is to research ‘lived experiences of minority communities around gambling harms’.
The 18-month project is a key RET target for GambleAware. It will investigate the main drivers of problem gambling in ethnic minority communities, as well as the barriers to treatment and which specific interventions may be needed and tailored to reduce gambling issues. The move follows £250K being granted to a research team looking into the specific experiences of women along similar lines.
The Research Lead at GambleAware, Dr Jay St.John Levy, said: “The experiences of minority communities around gambling are at present under-researched in Great Britain, yet evidence suggests that these groups are more likely to experience harm from gambling, and less likely to access gambling treatment services, compared with white communities.
“We are very pleased to award this grant to these two consortia who together bring considerable expertise focusing on people’s nuanced lived realities. This will help explore why these communities experience a greater burden of harm, and how to break down the barriers preventing them from accessing services.
“This research will better ensure that GambleAware and others can commission a broad range of treatment and support services that work for minority ethnic, language, and religious communities. It is, therefore, an important step towards reducing the current inequalities in gambling harms.”
Gambling harm prevention app Gambless recently released the results of 3,500 self-assessment tests by their users, which highlighted that English speakers were most at risk from problem gambling.
In their first annual report, they said English speakers – mainly from the US, UK, and Australia – recorded a Severity Score that was 57% higher than Italians. Gambless suggested this was due to Italy’s ban on gambling advertising combined with ‘aggressive CRM marketing coms’ from a number of UK operators.
In the US, problem gamblers highlighted land-based casinos more frequently, but Gambless thinks this is more to do with the lower penetration of online gambling in the country. Meanwhile, the operators most cited by problem gamblers were many of the big names in most territories, which they ranked.
This led Gambless to conclude: “Not surprisingly, the above ranks are heavily influenced by the market size of the operators. However, they show that even those that – at least publicly – put responsible gambling at the top of their agenda are not doing enough to identify problem gamblers and signpost them towards supportive resources.”
Reporting on their own app and its future, Gambless said: “Given the positive feedback and encouraging traction achieved purely via organic traffic, Gambless aims to expand its reach and to support even more problem gamblers by considerably increasing its marketing efforts for 2022.”
Moving to the US and earlier in the week, Madison Square Garden Sports (MSG Sports) and Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG Entertainment) gave their backing to the ASA’s ‘Have A Game Plan. Bet Responsibly’ campaign.
In Belgium, the Gambling Commission has urged the government to issue a Royal Decree relating to licenced sports betting services being offered in newspaper shops. The BGC states that there are a number of outlets in the country which say they are newsagents but derive most of their income from betting along with other age-restricted products such as lottery tickets, tobacco and alcohol.
They also state there is no clear definition on what is considered a newspaper shop that is permitted to take bets. They have urged for Article 42 of the Law of 28 November 2021 to be clarified so it includes the licensing of newspaper shops to conduct sports betting as a “strictly defined sideline activity”. This would boost player protection by reducing the availability of betting. Other proposed measures include limiting the hours when bets can be taken, while eligible shops would also have to pay a fee.
“The BGC once again urges the Government to ensure that the new rules are clearly formulated so that they can be efficiently monitored, both when a licence is granted/renewed and during on-site inspections,” the BGC stressed.
“Finally, the BGC asks the Government and the Parliament to urgently proceed with a legislative initiative postponing the entry into force of Article 42 of the Act of 28 November 2021 until when the Royal Decree is adopted.”
In the Netherlands, regulator de Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has warned 15 affiliate websites that were advertising illegal online games of chance to Dutch players. Thirteen of these affiliates, whose names were not disclosed, could be subject to a penalty dependent on how they react to the warning, while two are still being investigated. Some affiliates have already acted positively.
Speaking of the Netherlands, next Wednesday (15 December), the Permanent Committee for Justice and Security of the Dutch Lower House will debate the implementation of stricter marketing restrictions for gambling products in the wake of public backlash. The protection of minors will also be discussed.
Finally, Unibet and the body that represents the top two football leagues in Sweden have enhanced their collaboration regarding safer gambling, which has been running for three years. This will see all 32 clubs and more than 1,000 players and coaches get online training on safer gambling and responsibility.
Country Manager Unibet Sweden, Philip Lagström, said: “During our partnership with Swedish Elite Football (SEF), we have made several efforts to fight match-fixing and harmful gambling. This training is only one example of the work we do with SEF and we will continue our great efforts throughout the contract period.
“For us, it is very important to share and contribute our knowledge through this sponsorship. Unibet wants a sustainable gambling industry and our ambition is to reach 0% revenue derived from harmful gambling by 2023.”
Meanwhile, Anders Wikström, SEF League Integrity Officer, stated: “For some individuals, in society as well as within the athletic environment, gambling can, unfortunately, become a problem. Together with our partner Unibet, we want to take responsibility and offer an additional responsible gambling tool through this training.
“The online training contains a self-assessment where by answering certain questions, you get insight into your current gambling behaviour.
“Something that we see as a very important measure. The training also contains contact information for those who feel that they might be in a harmful situation, which provides us with reassurance.”