Safer Gambling Weekly Round-Up, by Dam Mad Media

A slightly shorter newsletter this week on account of things winding down for Christmas, but this doesn’t mean there has been a lack of news.

UKGC

The UK Gambling Commission has reported significant growth in the online gambling market, with the online Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) in October growing by 29% over September to £524m.

Meanwhile, the number of bets increased by 12% and there were 7% more active bettors.

This increase has raised concerns about the effect of lockdowns on gambling behaviour, particularly as there was a 12% increase in the number of customers spending over an hour on online slot sessions. Furthermore, online slots yielded 10% more, month-on-month, generating £172.5m. This is the biggest total in half a year.

The UKGC says it ‘will remain vigilant in light of new national lockdowns announced in recent weeks’ and that it has ‘continued to evolve as the country responds to varying levels of restrictions.’

They recently wrote to all operators reminding them of their guidance in May regarding the importance of affordability checks, restrictions on bonus offers and the prevention of reverse withdrawals.

With all of this undoubtedly feeding into the review of the 2005 Gambling Act, it comes as no surprise that this is still making the headlines.

PWC

A recent report from Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) suggests a booming underground betting market, with approximately 200,000 punters using unlicensed gambling operators, wagering £1.4b in a 12-month period between 2018 and 2019.

The data also shows that Brits visited unregulated sites 27 million times in that timeframe, accounting for 2.5% of all visits to gambling sites. Furthermore, 9% of all gambling searches were for black market sites.

BGC

The Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, warned of the importance of getting the gambling review right in light of this data.

He said: “As the standards body for the regulated industry, we strongly welcome the Gambling Review. We think [this] is a great opportunity to drive further change on safer gambling.

“[But] these figures from PwC demonstrate the danger of unintentionally driving punters into the arms of the illegal online black market, which offers none of the protections of the regulated sector.

“Millions of people in the UK enjoy an occasional flutter, whether that is on sports, at the bingo, on the Lottery or online, and it is vitally important that they are able to do so in a safe environment.

“So the Government needs to be wary of doing anything that puts that at risk.”

Earlier in the week, the UK Gambling Commission said it will be extending the consultation period regarding remote customer interaction.

The consultation’s aim is to seek the opinions of stakeholders on ‘stronger requirements for online operators to identify consumers who may be at risk of gambling harm, and the preventative actions they should take’.

Affordability checks and actions for vulnerable customers are expected to be at the forefront of the review. In addition, how operators identify and register customer vulnerability will be considered, as well as the circumstances under which they decide to take action in order to prevent unaffordable gambling and protect customers. Strengthening what is expected of operators in this area – and how they prove they are complying – will also feature.

A UKGC statement read: “With high engagement since the consultation opened last month, the Commission has extended the call for evidence deadline by four weeks to Tuesday 9 February.

“This extension will allow more time for detailed feedback and the strongest evidence base possible from consumers and other stakeholders.”

GambleAware

In other news, GambleAware have recently relaunched their website at begambleaware.org.

They have decided to merge their corporate website with their customer-facing one, creating one centralised hub for all users.

“By combining the content on one site we hope to make it easier for all stakeholders and beneficiaries to access the information they need,” the charity said in a statement.

The formal launch of the website won’t be until January, but it is already live. Meanwhile, GambleAware will also host their eighth annual ‘GambleAware Conference’ on 28 January, which will enable all syndicated gambling harm prevention charities and national health stakeholders in the UK to discuss current frameworks on supporting those suffering from gambling-related harm and whether these treatments are effective in the long-term.

Psychological Research

Finally, at the end of last week, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland published their Gambling Disorder Position Paper which stated that problem gambling is a ‘public health crisis’. A blanket ban on gambling advertising across Ireland has been proposed.

Lockdowns have made the problem more acute, and the paper highlights five key ways to tackle the issue: educating the public, the introduction of new laws, advertising controls, treatment services and research into problem gambling.

Professor Colin O’Gara, lead author of the paper, said: “We cannot continue to ignore the links between problem gambling and the current high volume of betting ads – be that in traditional TV ads or on team jerseys and side-line banners.

“Much like tobacco, in 10 years I think we will look back on the proliferation of gambling advertising in sport and entertainment and ask ourselves how we let it get so out of control. Currently, gambling advertising in Ireland is much too common and, critically, occurs before the adult television watershed.”

The paper also highlighted that betting advertising in sport has a significant effect on young people and that more should be done to both educate and protect them from problem gambling. They also advocate stricter age verification processes and monitoring by an independent regulator.

And that’s everything for 2020. May we take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and we’ll be back in January.

Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media

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