It has been an incredibly busy week in the world of Safer Gambling, so let’s take a look at the stories making the headlines.
Advertising Standards Association
The Advertising Standards Association (ASA) has pushed for advertisers of adult-related content to apply audience and media targeting tools more efficiently to help reduce the exposure of children to age-restricted advertisements.
The request has been directed to advertisers of alcohol and unhealthy food/drink as well as gambling and follows the latest ‘monitoring sweep’ conducted by the ASA. The ASA focused on high-volume ‘mixed-age online platforms’ which do not require users to be logged in, such as YouTube.
Advertisers of certain products cannot advertise where the audience is predominantly children, but they can advertise in mixed-age spaces which skew predominantly towards adults (75%+).
ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker stated: “We call on advertisers to make better use of targeting tools to minimise children’s exposure to dynamically served age-restricted ads. And we call on third parties involved in the distribution of these ads to ensure the data and modelling on which those tools rely are as effective as they can be. Finally, we will be exploring whether the report should lead to more prescriptive measures relating to dynamically served age-restricted ads.
“This latest monitoring sweep is just one part of a wider set of initiatives where we’re harnessing technology, all with the aim of ensuring children are protected online.”
Independent Betting Adjudication Service
Earlier in the week, the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) repeated their call for the introduction of a gambling ombudsman in their 2019/20 annual report.
While there had roughly been a 15% reduction in the number of formal requests for adjudication – largely due to the closure of land-based establishments due to COVID – the number of informal complaints was similar to that of the previous year. However, disputes concerning online account holders were up from 774 to 945, with issues relating to self-exclusion being particularly difficult.
Furthermore, 653 customers who registered on the IBAS website and completed a claim form were referred to the UKGC, as their issues were deemed ‘regulatory complaints’. This created an ‘unwelcome and confusing gap in the industry’s complaints handling framework’ as the UKGC does not deal with consumer disputes, even if they fall under a failure of the Social Responsibility Code of Conduct, which the UKGC does deal with. This is in accordance with UKGC’s 2018 Standards for ADR Providers.
IBAS Managing Director Richard Hayler said: “We believe that if the government embraces the concept of a Gambling Ombudsman our body of experience – over 80,000 formal adjudication processes in over 20 years – provides the obvious foundation for a new type of service.
“We hope that DCMS will recommend an expansion of the current remit of ADR to maximise the number of consumer complaints that can be properly addressed, but we have already begun to explore the practical challenges that will bring.
“We hope that proposals may also be forthcoming from the review about how the most effective partnership between regulator and ombudsman – if one is recommended – can be achieved.”
The Gambling Commission’s latest participation and problem gambling survey was published this week and saw a drop both in gambling participation and problem gambling for the month of June 2021.
The proportion of problem gamblers recorded was 0.4%. This was slightly lower than the number in the previous survey from December, but the Commission says the change was too small to be statistically significant.
Those considered at a medium risk of gambling harm had reduced from 1.4% to 0.7%, a statistically significant amount, while the proportion at low risk was again down but not significantly so.
This means the combined percentage of gamblers at some element of risk declined to 3.1% from 4.2%.
All-Party Parliamentary Group
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) have written to parliament citing the streaming of slots, social casinos, esports betting and loot boxes as “new forms of online gambling” that are “deeply concerning”. They have urged all four to be considered in the ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
APPG chair Carolyn Harris MP and Peers for Gambling Reform chair Lord Foster of Bath said: “The review must establish mechanisms to research, review and, where relevant, re-classify these activities without primary legislation, to provide appropriate safeguards.
“Failing to include these new forms of gambling in the review will mean that legislation will very rapidly not be fit for the digital era and effectively be out of date on publication.”
GambleAware revealed this week that the bulk of its donations came from Entain in the first quarter of its fiscal year. The charity received £2.3m during this period, with £2m being donated by Entain in Q1.
The total amount donated from 1 April to 30 June was 180.5% higher than the £820,000 which was received during the same period last year. Videoslots donated £50,000 while Broadway Gaming and Apricot Investments both donated £30,000 – the next highest figures.
Speaking of Entain, on Thursday they announced their intention to strengthen their measures on customer protection to include providing education and support across other entertainment media such as video games. Their not-for-profit Entain Foundation will work with their US partners to help players who are potentially at the risk of harm in both the UK and Europe.
A scheme aimed at raising the awareness of mental health challenges amongst gamers called ‘Mind Your Game’ will be launched, while Entain will also provide education and support for those at risk of addiction and gaming disorder in relation to video games and other entertainment media. EPIC Risk Management and the Counter-Strike Professional Players Association are also involved in the initiative.
GamCare has awarded their inaugural B2B Safer Gambling Standard to Playtech, with their accredited platform and casino games in Britain being the key driver. Their ‘Sustainable Success’ business strategy was also part of their success, as was the introduction of their external Stakeholder Advisory Board.
The ‘Playtech Project’ also received commendation as it ties together Playtech’s safer gambling and compliance technology, tools, services and solutions. Meanwhile, BetBuddy was also well-received.
Richard Bayliss, Senior Regulatory Affairs and Compliance Manager at Playtech, said: “Through our industry-leading products and services we have always worked closely with our licensees to help raise industry standards in responsible business and safer gambling.
“Since 2018, we have increased our strategic focus by working with academics, charities and thought leaders inside and outside the gambling sector to deliver our Sustainable Success commitments.
“We’re extremely proud to be the first B2B business to receive GamCare’s B2B safer gambling accreditation and we are pleased that GamCare has recognised our efforts to put safer gambling at the heart of what we do. We know we must continue to challenge ourselves and work with others to identify and develop new products and solutions to meet the needs of customers, licensees and regulators.”
GamCare’s Head of Safer Gambling Standards, Hayley Jane Smith, said: “Playtech was awarded Advanced level Two, of Three, of our B2B Standard for its casino product and platform operations licensed in Great Britain as the Company demonstrated a clear focus on continuing to develop and improve its approach to safer gambling in respect of products supplied to gambling operators.
“Playtech’s focus on safer gambling was tested through an in-depth review of its governance, product design, innovation and staff training as well conducting interviews with staff and management at all levels. We look forward to continuing to work with Playtech on the ongoing development of its safer gambling approach and the assessment of its other B2B business operations.”
There was an interesting article featuring both Bayliss and Smith in iGamingBusiness this week, which highlighted that suppliers are under increasing scrutiny regarding their safer gambling responsibilities. The piece highlighted some of the ways player protection is being built into suppliers’ products.
Moving to Belgium and their Council of Ministers have approved a reduction in the weekly deposit limit from €500 to €200. The limit won’t be enforced across the board though, only on a per operator basis. It was initially mooted that the €500 limit would be retained but applied across all operators. However, the limit was instead slashed but kept per-operator “in order to strengthen the protection of the player”.
Should the proposal be approved by the Data Protection Authority, the Council of State will then get to vote on it. Meanwhile, a second proposal was also approved which will add betting shops to Belgium’s national exclusion register, EPIS.
Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has published a draft of the regulations pertaining to sports betting in the province, with marketing rather than product innovation being restricted.
Betting exchanges, DFS, betting on esports and in-play betting will all be permitted when the market liberalises later this year, but advertising must not appeal to under-18s nor must it appear near schools. Furthermore, ads for bonuses are not permitted except on the websites of operators, while misleading commercials are also not allowed.
Responsible gambling policies must be in place for all operators, who must also provide responsible gambling training. These policies must be regularly reviewed too.
Finally, in Queensland, the government has published a four-year plan aimed at minimising gambling harm. It is based on four key pillars – culture/leadership, technology, public health and regulation – with the aim of introducing safer services and products, as well as protecting customers and ensuring a trusted regulatory system is in place.