The Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group has suggested that online operators self impose a £50 daily cap on players during the coronavirus outbreak. But will their suggestion have the unintended consequence of driving players to less scrupulous operators?
MPs are urging online operators to set a temporary cap on all bets to £50 per day as players are expected to spend more time gambling online during the ongoing pandemic.
With major sporting events, such as the Premier League and Grand National, suspended until further notice, many operators are promoting international and obscure sporting events, computer-generated “virtual” sports, and online casino games. While the shift is aimed at keeping employees paid, it has given certain MPs more fuel to add to their ever-growing anti-gambling fire.
The Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group has expressed its concern to the Betting & Gaming Council about the impact that these kinds of offers may have, stating that the group is “deeply concerned that as we go deeper into this crisis, more and more people will turn to online gambling as a distraction”. However, they provided no evidence for the theory, which assumes that player behaviour will shift towards a growth in harmful play due to distraction, rather than decline due to economic uncertainty.
The same is true for their solution to their speculation. They believe that “if the industry were to self-impose a daily limit of £50 it would be a clear demonstration that the industry is willing to act responsibly and do what they can to protect society and peoples’ finances at this dreadful time”.
Again, there is little evidence this would help, making the £50 daily limit arbitrary even before it’s mentioned that there are many ways around the cap. Multiple accounts, across multiple operators, would make a mockery of the limit, all while driving players away from strictly regulated British-licensed firms. And this is the biggest flaw of the APPG’s request, and one that could actually increase gambling harm.
Not all online operators are in the BGBC – only British-licensed ones that generally take social responsibility very seriously. Outside of that, the internet is a free market of licensed and unlicensed operators from across the world, many of whom don’t care for social responsibility, and many of whom won’t be imposing a £50 daily limit on players. And this is where many players will turn if the APPG’s suggestion becomes reality.