Last month the industry association, the Betting and Gaming Council, announced a new 10-point safer gambling action plan for its members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The action plan, which came into force on 27 March 2020, aims to strengthen consumer protection and build upon existing safer gambling measures implemented by its members.
Whilst overall gambling has dramatically declined due to cancellation of sporting events and the closure of betting shops and casinos, the Government’s lockdown and social-distancing guidelines mean more people are spending time in their homes. Customers may now be gambling online more frequently and, during this difficult time, could be at their most vulnerable and a greater risk of problem gambling. The Betting and Gaming Council’s action plan consists of 10 pledges which set out the standard expected of operators to increase their safer gambling measures and to protect customers during the crisis.
The 10 pledges are as follows:
- Members will increase safer gambling messaging across all sites, apps and channels including inbox messaging to all existing and new customers reminding them of the safer gambling tools available.
- Members will implement heightened monitoring and data collection in the knowledge that customers are required to abide by social distancing measures. Any material change in customer play patterns, including any increase in time and spend, beyond normal patterns before the crisis, indicates potential markers of harm and operators must step up interventions.
- Members, operating heightened monitoring, shall actively promote deposit limits and send a deposit limit message with link to the tool to any player exhibiting abnormal patterns of play that are a marker of harm.
- Members shall commit to an immediate and ongoing review of their marketing and advertising – in volume, content and targeting – and will act to ensure it is both appropriate and responsible given the increased risk.
- Members will report to the BGC instances of illegal rogue and inappropriate advertising and the BGC will report these to the regulator.
- These Pledges will fully apply to all affiliates. Members will enforce a strict one-strike-and-you’re-out policy for breaches of these pledges.
- Members will sign-post to Gamcare advice and the 24-hour free to call National Gambling Helpline and GamStop for self-exclusion in their safer gambling messaging, particularly where issues around anxiety or isolation are apparent from monitoring systems or customer interactions.
- Members restate their commitment to maintaining the vital flow of important funding for Research, Education and Treatment (“RET”).
- Members shall conduct welfare checks on employees during this crisis.
- Members should play a full part in supporting the Government’s ‘National Effort’ by encouraging staff to volunteer for community service, as well as offering premises where possible for use by those supporting the effort to tackle the Coronavirus.
Commenting on the pledges, Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said:
“In this time of national crisis, with so many people self-isolating and social distancing at home, it is vital that we do everything possible to ensure safer gambling and to protect potentially vulnerable or at risk people.”
Building on these pledges, and in response to a letter from the Sports Minister, members have this week committed to further safer gambling measures, as detailed in a letter from Michael Dugher to the Sports Minister in which he says:
“I can give you 100 per cent assurance that despite the severe financial pressures the industry is under at present, our members in the regulated sector are fully committed to working with you and the Government to address all concerns on safeguarding customers.”
These additional measures include:
- Responding to the Sports Minister’s request for safer gambling messages to be given more prominence in all adverts across all channels. This is being treated as an immediate high priority.
- Ensuring that the Gambling Commission’s recent request for data is urgently provided.
- Expediting agreed changes to VIPs, advertising technology and game design.
- In addition to implementing restrictions on VIP accounts for anyone under 25, members will look to bring forward age-gating on advertising technology to help prevent under 25s receiving advertising along with all other measures.
The letter also provides an assurance that Betting and Gaming Council members are “firmly committed to increasing funding for RET despite the severe financial pressures.”
The pledges and additional measures, together with the marketing code for the Virtual Grand National which took place on Saturday 4 April 2020, demonstrate the industry’s renewed commitment to safeguarding customers and raising standards. This is despite the disappointing response to the current crisis from the Gambling Commission, which we wrote about in our blogs on 25 March 2020 and 3 April 2020.