It’s been a rather mixed week in the world of Safer Gambling, with a number of stories running concurrently.
Betting and Gaming Council (BGC)
Earlier in the week, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) launched their brand-new “A Safer Bet” animation, which is designed to highlight both the safety record and the economic contribution of the betting industry in the UK.
The message is also a warning to the government ahead of reforms of the UK Gambling Act that over-regulation of the industry could have “unintended consequences”.
A recent PwC report, reported in this newsletter last year, suggested that 200,000 British punters had staked over £1.4bn with unregulated operators in a 12-month period from 2018 to 2019. The view from the BGC is that increased regulation could see this increase.
Instead, they have stressed the ‘safer bet’ is to remain in the regulated market, with its focus on self-exclusion schemes, age verification and spending checks amongst other player protections.
They also stress the £8.7bn that the regulated industry contributes to the British economy, along with the £3.2bn in tax payments and the 100,000 jobs the gambling industry supports.
However, the British cross-sector organisation Gambling Business Group (GBG) has warned the UK Gambling Commission that such proposals could increase the number of problem gamblers and push them towards unlicensed sites. This could lead to rates of problem gambling rising above 1%.
“I would like to stress from the outset that although the Gambling Commission’s affordability proposal has been framed in relation to online players, it would be naive in the extreme to assume that the principles and philosophy will not be extended to all gambling entertainment activities across all verticals including adult gaming centres, licensed betting offices and bingo clubs in some shape or form,” GBG chief executive Peter Hannibal said.
“Currently the demand to play on unregulated sites is limited but the unintended and I assume unforeseen consequences of affordability checks will be to create such a market and then to sustain it.
“Make no mistake, this is prohibition by another name and wherever you look in the world prohibition has never worked and will never work, more than often creating exactly the set of problems that it sets out to address.”
Hannibal has called for greater scrutiny of the proposals and for affordability checks to be considered as part of the review of the 2005 Gambling Act rather than separately.
Despite these calls, Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur wrote to a cross-party group of MPs examining gambling-related harm saying: “We know that licensed operators and their trade bodies are concerned about the impact of the illegal market, but our own evidence suggests the impact may be being exaggerated.
“In any event, we are not convinced by the argument that suggests raising standards in the licensed market will prompt consumers to gamble with illegal operators.”
On the topic of affordability, W2 announced on Monday that they have released the first real-time affordability solution for the UK market.
The Gambling Commission already puts affordability front and centre of the commitments required by licensed operators, with these rules likely to get tighter once the Gambling Act and the results of the ongoing consultation have been reviewed.
W2’s affordability solution gives operators a snapshot in real-time on what an individual customer earns, without the need for additional interaction. It uses authorised and compliant banking data feeds over a 24-month period and across sole and joint accounts to provide individual insights for every customer.
Peter Murray, W2 Head of Sales, said: “For us at W2 it is all about offering a solution which removes friction but is compliant, and we believe that this new affordability solution is suited to both the needs of the regulator, the challenges the operators face, and the consumers desire to be protected from harm.”
Murray also stressed that this solution should only be used to encourage responsible gambling and not for marketing purposes.
Also on Monday, it was announced that the Gambling Commission had added a new section to its website to highlight to the public their rights and protections when gambling with licensed operators.
Information is provided on opening accounts, as well as the ID verification rules, data rights and storage that UK gambling operators must adhere to.
Furthermore, guidance is also given on which banks permit the blocking of gambling transactions and how gambling can affect customer credit scores. How to challenge disputes and pursue compensation is also covered, as well as what happens should an operator go bust.
Speaking of banks blocking gambling transactions, HSBC announced this week that the cooling-off period for its gambling block feature has been extended from 24 hours to 72 hours. Once activated, the tool prevents customers from making gambling payments with their account. This also affects first direct customers, with both companies also employing specialist support teams in this area.
Maxine Pritchard, Head of Financial Inclusion and Vulnerability at HSBC UK, said: “This is a challenging time for many of our customers, with some not working and perhaps facing financial difficulty. By increasing the restriction to 72 hours, this will help give our customers time to pause when they are tempted to return to gambling.
“We are always looking for new ways to support our customers and make it easier for them to manage their finances. Customer feedback on our gambling control showed us there was more we could do to help and we’ve worked closely with them and with GamCare to design the solution.”
Anna Hemmings, CEO of GamCare, added: “The ability to block gambling transactions through your bank card or app is an important tool for those struggling with their gambling and is ideally used together with other practical tools such as self-exclusion, blocking software, and specialist support around the issue – as we have recently emphasised through our ‘TalkBanStop’ partnership and campaign.
“The University of Bristol Personal Finance Research Centre has also highlighted that ‘positive friction’ such as a cooling-off period is important for the success of blocks, as this prevents them being turned off in the event of urges to gamble. GamCare is pleased to see HSBC UK and first direct take this positive step to support their customers.”
Research released on Thursday from the Behavioural Insights Team, funded by GambleAware, has highlighted that when customers are able to choose their own deposit limit, as opposed to pre-defined options listed in a dropdown menu, they reduce the amount they set for themselves by up to 46%.
This suggests that how deposit limits are presented has a strong collation with player behaviour and that having a blank field where customers can insert their own limit could reduce problem gambling as players are more likely to suggest a lower limit than they would if they only had prescribed options available. It is one example of how operators can use site design to reduce gambling-related harm.
American Gaming Association
On Tuesday, it was announced that the PGA Tour has partnered with the American Gaming Association in a public service campaign entitled Have A Game Plan.® Bet Responsibly.
The PGA Tour has joined NASCAR and the National Hockey League (NHL) as partners in the campaign and will develop content that encourages golf fans to “Know When to Lay Up” and bet responsibly. The educative content will appear on digital and social platforms as well as airing as public service announcements on PGA Radio. It will be branded accordingly.
The campaign also aims to promote the fundamentals of betting: setting a budget and sticking to it, keeping betting social, knowing the odds and only playing with regulated operators.
“The AGA is thrilled to welcome the PGA TOUR to our growing responsible sports betting campaign,” said Casey Clark, AGA Senior Vice President, Strategic Communications.
“As legal sports betting continues to expand in both availability and popularity, it is imperative that responsible gaming education keeps pace. Today’s announcement is a testament to the Tour’s thoughtful approach to sports betting and marks an important step in continuing to engage all industry stakeholders in our shared responsibility to educate fans on safely and responsibly betting on sports.”
The news out of the Netherlands that the launch of their regulated market has been delayed by one month had been heavily rumoured and is understandable due to the current situation regarding the pandemic. The reason cited is that slower implementation of laws may create stronger regulation.
However, it was interesting that Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker also said that the cross-channel self-exclusion scheme Cruks is on course to be ready ahead of schedule.
Dekker said: “For the sake of completeness, I would also like to inform you that, in my opinion, all conditions for the anticipated timelines with regard to the introduction of Cruks are still met.
“This means that CRUKS must be implemented by all concerned providers by 1 October 2021.”
Finally, there have been two fascinating long-form articles published in the industry this week.
The first focuses on whether the rise of cashless payments could lead to an increase in problem gambling while the second sees the CEO of Mindway AI, Rasmus Kjaergaard, talk about the role artificial intelligence can play in responsible gambling.
Both are great reading with your Friday lunch.
Until next week!
Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media