This week’s Safer Gambling news has a strong international flavour, with developments happening all across Europe.
On Monday, the UK Gambling Commission launched a new customer guidance campaign, advising customers on the gambling block services currently available with UK banking providers.
Forming part of the UKGC’s ‘Money and Rights’ section, which focuses on consumer rights in relation to gambling, the Commission has provided a full list of gambling block tools and support services offered by nine UK banks. They are Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, MBNA, Natwest, RBS and Santander.
Digital banks Starling and Monzo are also included, while Citibank, Co-operative, Nationwide, Standard Chartered, Metro Bank and Virgin Money are cited as offering no safer gambling protections.
A greater obligation for financial services providers to prevent gambling-related harm is one of the key focuses in the Government’s ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Staying in the UK and the Betting and Gaming Council has pledged to “keep up the momentum” on Safer Gambling.
This was in response to data from UKGC which suggests that in 2020, the rate of problem gambling in the UK dropped from 0.6% to 0.3%, while gamblers classed as being at a ‘moderate risk’ of harm fell from 1.2% to 0.9% between 2019 and 2020. The number of ‘low risk’ gamblers fell from 2.7% to 2.0%.
The BGC pointed out that this suggests that their work over the past 12 months on promoting safer gambling is having an impact.
Wes Himes, the BGC’s Executive Director for Standards and Innovation, said: “Since being established in 2019, we have worked tirelessly to drive up standards in the regulated betting and gaming industry and promote safer gambling.
“Our initiatives have included encouraging deposit limits, investing more in research, education and treatment, and introducing tough new rules on VIP schemes and game design.
“One problem gambler is one too many, however, and we are determined to keep up the momentum in the months ahead.
“For example, we’re looking at how we extend filtering for online ads, and are working with online platforms on opt outs for betting advertising. We look forward to engaging with the government’s gambling review to ensure a safer gambling environment for our millions of customers.”
On Friday, the UKGC also released its findings from the first ‘National Strategic Assessment’, highlighting its response to risk and duties over the last three years.
Key points from a Safer Gambling perspective were the increased acceptance since 2018 of problem gambling being a public health issue, and thus needing a public health approach, and the importance of listening to voices who have had lived-in experience of gambling-related harm.
The group stated: “We were amongst the first voices to make the arguments that Gambling Harms should be recognised as a Public Health issue and adopted a public health approach when we published the first-ever National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms in 2019.”
As well as a national approach, more localised initiatives are also having an impact, and the latest one was announced this week. Watford FC have formed a partnership with mobile health app RecoverMe, bolstering the club’s commitment to safer gambling.
Founded by three NHS junior doctors, RecoverMe aims to highlight the range of treatment options available to problem gamblers, as well as offering immediate access to support.
Watford’s sponsor is cryptocurrency betting firm Sportsbet.io, who have backed the partnership, saying they recognise “the need to support those with a gambling addiction”.
Meanwhile, Tejus Patel, Co-Founder of RecoverMe, said: “RecoverMe are thrilled to be working with Watford FC in raising the profile of gambling addiction and, in particular, awareness of treatment options.
“We are excited to build a long-lasting relationship with Watford in reducing gambling-related harms and raising the awareness of gambling addiction amongst Watford’s supporter base and beyond.”
Moving west and Flutter have announced a range of new measures they will be introducing in Ireland.
The Paddy Power owners will no longer accept betting on credit cards and will also adopt a whistle-to-whistle ban on TV advertising. Furthermore, they’ll also donate 1% of Net Gaming Revenue to support education and treatment of problem gambling in Ireland, with a target of giving €3million by 2023.
In Spain, problem-gambling therapist FEJAR has joined forces with Jdigital, which will see its members promote a new treatment support freephone helpline (900 533 025) across digital spaces.
Codere, Ebingo, Entain, Flutter, Sisal, Sportium, Wanabet and Winamax have started the “first phase trialling” of the number, which is managed by FEJAR.
“We are very proud of joining forces with FEJAR in the fight against problematic gambling in Spain,” said Jdigital president Andrea Vota.
“Our members have a strong commitment to their users and society in general, as well as with our goal of promoting safe and responsible environments for online gambling activity as a responsible form of entertainment.”
Independent reports on the progress and development of the number will be published so the effectiveness of the initiative can easily be discerned. The move fulfils part of the new guidelines in the recently enacted ‘Royal Decree on Responsible Gambling’ which says licensed operators must offer “direct links to information services on safer gambling”.
The president of FEJAR, Maxi Gutierrez, said: “The first phone number to be launched in collaboration with the Spanish online gambling association. We are pleased to have signed this agreement with Jdigital and some of the main online gambling companies in the country, because it highlights the importance of joining efforts on the fight against problematic gambling, a task that has been FEJAR’s main goal since its foundation in 1991.”
Moving to France and in a wide-ranging interview with SBC News, the leader of new regulatory agency L’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ), Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, says the first goal of the ANJ is to ensure the sustainability of the French gambling market.
Accepting there is a balance between the needs of business and social responsibility, she says the main aim is to ensure gambling is done “as an occasional, moderate and controlled leisure activity”.
She also stressed the importance of working with other jurisdictions, citing the ANJ’s recent Memorandum of Understanding with Dutch regulator Kansspelautoriteit as a way of strengthening cross-border principles in areas such as player protection and the prevention of underage gambling. However, full harmonization is undesirable as the gambling culture in each country can be different.
She also said the innovation and frequently changing nature of the gambling industry means regulators should always be reactive to any new potential issues, but that this doesn’t mean the aims of regulators and operators are irreconcilable.
In Austria, finance minister Gernot Blümel has announced a complete overhaul of their gambling regulatory framework this week.
Amongst the measures are new requirements for transparency, as well as enhanced player protections and the formation of a new supervisory authority.
A national self-exclusion scheme covering both online and land-based gambling will be set up, while new regulations for loot boxes will also be devised. Unlicensed sites will also be targeted with IP blocks, while something similar to the German regulatory model will be adopted on things like deposit limits.
Blümel said: “Player protection is of particular importance, as gambling is a very sensitive area for players, their families and for society, which also carries considerable risks.
“Players are often affected by addiction and as a consequence confronted with financial, psychological and existential issues.”
Finally, there have been two interesting long pieces published in the iGaming press this week.
The first was in iGaming Business and looks at the key issues facing the industry regarding social responsibility in 2021.
The second was a fascinating interview in iGamingFuture with the founder of the Ethical Ad Group, James Burgess. In this article, he talks about the future of iGaming acquisition and the importance of responsible advertising.
Both are excellent Friday afternoon reads. Have a good weekend, folks!
Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media