The UK Gambling Commission has issued a statement urging casino operator to continue protecting customers during lockdown.
Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown for England which is thought to last until around March. Under the stay-at-home orders, all non-essential businesses must close and people have been encouraged to only leave their home for limited reasons.
With more people at home and potentially gambling online, Neil McArthur, the CEO of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), has issued a statement reminding casino operators of their player responsibilities and urging them to continue protecting customers over the coming weeks.
McArthur says in his statement: “As the nation moves into lockdown once again in response to the rising rates of Coronavirus, I wanted to take the opportunity to remind you of the need to ensure that you are protecting your customers during this difficult time.”
The UKGC CEO then reminds all licensees that “extra operator vigilance” is needed during this lockdown because most people across the UK will be spending more time at home and may be feeling isolated or vulnerable. McArthur also highlights that some “highly engaged” gamblers may spend more time and money gambling and some people may try gambling for the first time during this period.
As a result, McArthur states that the UKGC expects operators to follow the strengthened guidance it issued during the first lockdown in March 2020, interacting with consumers directly where triggers are reached, implementing more email engagement, avoiding “temptation” to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes, and taking care when boarding on new customers and making decisions regarding affordability checks.
Meanwhile, McArthur states that the UKGC will continue to strengthen regulatory and license requirements for customer protection. The organisation will also continue monitoring operators and consumer behaviour along with conducting compliance assessments as the UKGC did last year during previous lockdowns.
McArthur ends the statement by writing: “The gambling industry and daily life as a whole continues to be impacted by the pandemic and whilst there is some light and hope ahead with the vaccine, I want to ensure operators are clear of our expectations.
“Since March we have all adapted to new ways of working and this new phase will be a challenge for us all. However, operators must now more than ever, continue to be vigilant to protect their customers.”
The UK Gambling Commission’s statement comes as leading gambling charity GambleAware has revealed that it received a combined total of £4.5 million in donations in the first three quarters of the 2020-21 financial year.
As reported by FocusGN, Flutter Entertainment topped GambleAware’s donation list after donating £874,000 in the nine months up to December 31, 2020. Following Flutter, Bet365 donated a total of £763,000, and William Hill donated £540,000 with a promise to donate a full £1 million for the entire 2020-21 financial year period.
In addition to the above, Gamesys donated £450,000, Betway donated £134,000, 888 Holdings awarded the charity £50,000, and Praesepe Holdings, an arcade operator, donated £28,000 with a pledge for more money in the coming months. The charity also received donations from Casumo, Blueprint Gaming, and BetFred subsidiary Petfre Gibraltar.
Finally, GambleAware received donations from settlements between casino operators and the UK Gambling Commission. This includes £3 million in funds from William Hill over a failure to prevent harm and money laundering at Mr Green, and £5.8 million from Betway over failure to adhere to its social responsibility and money laundering responsibilities.
News of GambleAware’s donations come as the charity announces the launch of the next phase of its National Gambling Treatment Service, a campaign designed to raise awareness of the organisation’s treatment service.
According to Gambling Insider, the campaign, which is titled ‘Start To Regain Control’, is targeted at high-risk gamblers aged between 22 and 55 in areas such as London, the East of England, and the West Midlands. It will run on radio, digital platforms, and across regional press throughout the month of January.
The campaign will focus on the consuming nature of gambling and on people suffering from gambling-harm who feel disconnected with the outside world. It will use the tagline “When you’re there, but not there” and promote the easy access of treatment to help problem gamblers overcome their struggles.
The launch of the new phase of GambleAware’s campaign comes after the charity last year commissioned research to examine the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns. It found that people with a higher Problem Gambling Severity Index score were more likely to increase gambling between the period of March and May 2020.
GambleAware also stated that the Problem Gambling Severity Index scores were at risk of increasing due to reduced numbers of appointments with mental health professionals amidst the ongoing pandemic.
GambleAware Communications and Engagement Director Zoe Osmond said in a statement: “So far, the campaign has proven to be successful in encouraging people to contact the National Gambling Treatment Service for support, but there is still more to be done.
“During the pandemic and this extremely difficult time for people, it is vital that we continue to ensure those in need of help understand what services are available to them, which is why we are taking this targeted approach to help reach those high-risk areas across Great Britain.”
As stated by Osmond, GambleAware’s campaign has already proven successful as tracking research has shown a 10% increase in the awareness of and a likeliness to contact the National Gambling Helpline.
Last November, GambleAware announced the launch of a new service in collaboration with Citizens Advice Scotland, aiming to provide debt advisors with a better understanding of gambling harm and how they can help prevent and reduce it. The charity also spent much of 2020 working with the NHS to open new problem gambling treatment centres like the Primary Care Gambling Service located in Kennington.