The Gambling Commission has said new data suggests a hike in spend and playtime on gambling sites since the introduction of lockdown, prompting it to tighten regs on digital operators.
A large shift of locked down players towards online casinos has prompted the Gambling Commission to issue new guidance to digital operators as to how best protect consumers. The regulator said that it had evidence to suggest some gamblers were now at a heightened risk of problem-play due to isolation in lockdown, despite the latest survey data from YouGov clearly showing an overall decline in gambling participation since the introduction of shelter-in-place orders back in March. The drop off in play was attributed, unsurprisingly, to the closure of all landed gambling business nationwide and the cancellation of all major betting events. The logical conclusion, many observers would suggest, is that many of these players will naturally temporarily replace their bricks and mortar experience, ruled out through lockdown, with an online one.
Not so, argues the regulator. GamCom said it was concerned over survey responses from frequent gamblers, 64 per cent of which said that they have increased the time and/or money they spent on gambling as a direct consequence of pandemic policies.
To that end, commission chief executive Neil McArthur said a raft of new, temporary policies – such as the cancellation of all bonuses and promotions to high-risk player and interaction with those playing for an hour or more – should be instituted by the online sector “as soon as possible.”
“Operators must use the data they hold to protect their customers and now, more than ever, it’s vital that online operators really know their customers by monitoring how long they are playing for and understanding how financial uncertainty is impacting them and what they can afford to gamble with,” he remarked. “To ensure operators do that, we are strengthening our guidance and expect operators to take account of that to prevent bonus offers or inducements being offered to customers who are showing any sign of harm.”
McArthur added that many of the new policies detailed in the new list of online stipulations had already been tabled for future implementation – but that the Coronavirus pandemic had “accelerated” their introduction. To those operators who failed to meet new standards, McArthur warned that the Commission “step in immediately, suspending licenses if we need to.”
The announcement of the step-up in online measures came with the sign off from responsible minister for gambling Nigel Huddleston.
“It is vital that people are protected from the threat of gambling related harm and I welcome these latest steps from the Gambling Commission,” he said. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will not hesitate to take further action if required.”