GamCare have urged people to be aware of the ‘signs that someone may be struggling with problem gambling over the Christmas period’, with the season being one of the peak periods of concern. New research suggests that 20% of Brits have placed a bet with their Christmas pay or bonus, with 8% saying they do this regularly. This, along with the stat that six million Britons know someone with a gambling problem, is why they have relaunched their Christmas campaign.
GamCare’s helpline saw an 18% increase in calls during Christmas 2019, with staff also reporting a rise in the number of safeguarding issues over the Festive Period.
Early December paydays, an increased number of sporting events on which to bet and the role alcohol plays at this time of year were all cited as possible triggers for problem gambling, along with the increased financial and social anxieties of the season.
Fiona Macleod, Director of Clinical and Communities, said: “With more financial and family pressures, we know that the festive holidays can be a tough time for people trying to control their gambling.
“During December, along with an early wage, there are more sporting events in close succession, heavy advertising from gambling companies, coupled with many people having free, unstructured time away from work.”
Key warning signs of issues are people becoming withdrawn, suffering sleeping disorders and mood swings, as well as lying about their financial circumstances.
Betting and Gaming Council
Staying in the UK and following a survey conducted by Racing TV which suggested majority opposition to affordability checks, Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) Chief Executive Michael Dugher warned the UK Government that the reforms of the 2005 Gambling Act could push people to black market operators.
Affordability may be determined by customers having to hand over bank statements and payslips to betting companies, but 95% of those responding to the Racing TV survey were opposed to bookmakers having this sort of access to their bank accounts. Meanwhile, 85% expressed worries that if these measures were introduced, it would push people towards unregulated operators.
On the survey, Dugher said: “I’m alarmed at the findings – particularly the high number who believe that punters will simply move to the unsafe, unregulated black market online if blanket enhanced spending checks are introduced – and hope that ministers will take heed of punters’ views.
“We strongly support the Gambling Review as an evidence-led process, but it’s vitally important that it strikes the right balance between protecting the vulnerable and not spoiling the enjoyment of the vast majority of customers who enjoy a flutter safely and responsibly.”
He went on to say such measures should only be introduced for “people who are vulnerable or at higher risk.” He added: “I am not opposed to spending checks, but believe we should use the technology that is now available to target those people who are at vulnerable or at higher risk of problem gambling and providing them with the help they need, rather than blanket checks on every punter.
“The Racing TV survey – like the poll we commissioned earlier this year – show that the unsafe, unregulated black market online, which has none of the safer gambling measures used by our members, stands to benefit if the Government fails to get the necessary changes in the Gambling Review right.”
Seventy-four percent of respondents in the survey said they would back such measures for high-risk customers. Meanwhile, 88% of those who bet agreed with the statement that they should have ‘the freedom to choose how much they bet without government interference’.
Last week, we wrote about a new advertising code in the Netherlands agreed by operator association the Licensed Dutch Gaming Providers (VNLOK) and since the time of publication, more information has been published in English. The code will apply until 1 March 2023, with an evaluation next October.
The measures introduce largely build upon current legislation. For example, the current ban on gambling advertising on television from 06:00 to 21:00 will now also apply to online video advertising.
Furthermore, advertising will now not be permitted on channels which have a viewership of minors at over 25%, while the operators will also prohibit 18 to 24-year-olds from accessing bonuses.
“It was not easy to protect the interests of all involved parties, but we have managed to arrive at a robust advertising code for online games of chance that has additional protection for consumers and specifically vulnerable groups,” said Helma Lodders, chairman of VNLOK.
“This involves advice from addiction experts and consumer organisations.”
VNLOK members include FPO Nederland, Holland Casino, JOI Gaming, Nederlandse Loterij and ZEbet. They are a different trade group to the Netherlands Online Gambling Association (NOGA), whose members include bet365, Entain, Flutter and Kindred. They called for a more robust code in the autumn.
Following an independent audit, German casino operator Spielbanken Niedersachsen (SNG) has been certified as adhering to the most up-to-date European Casino Association (ECA) standards in responsible gambling. In so doing, it has become the tenth casino group to have passed the standard.
Key criteria include employee training, player education, entrance policies, engagement of stakeholders, marketing/advertising, and research and awareness.
Max Rosle, Managing Director of SNG, said: “Responsible Gambling in Germany is an integral part of our day-to-day business as mandated by law. The audit, however, is an opportunity to improve our processes and develop our standards even further. It is in the interest of all members to support responsible gambling and in doing so, strengthen the credibility of the ECA.”
In Finland, last Tuesday the Finnish Parliament approved the country’s Lottery Act at first reading, which will introduce stricter controls for offshore operators, as well as enhancing Veikkaus’ monopoly.
Measures include payment blocking of all non-Veikkaus sites as well as mandatory identification for all Veikkaus products. The marketing of gambling games deemed particularly harmful will also be banned.
In responding to the bill, the secretary-general of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), Maarten Haijer, was critical, saying it was a missed opportunity for reform.
He said: “The introduction of PSP [payment service providers] blockings is an implicit admission that many of Finland’s gamblers prefer to bet on other websites rather than that of the state-run monopoly. There are many reasons why they do so: the availability of better betting odds, and better diversity and expertise in the products offered, are to name a few.
“In the online world, consumers vote with their feet and that is why we will continue to encourage the government to rethink, rather than reinforce, the country’s online gambling monopoly model and advocate for the benefits of establishing a well-regulated, multi-licensing model for online gambling in Finland.”
Swedish Gambling Authority
Finally, the Swedish Gambling Authority has appointed Yvonne Hejdenberg as their new communications manager – she will join from 1 January.
Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media