Gambling-related harm APPG calls for £50 daily gambling limit

As reported by The Guardian yesterday (22 March 2020), the Gambling Related Harm APPG has written a letter to Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council in the following terms under the heading “COVID-19: Taking action to prevent gambling related harm during the global pandemic”:

We write to you as the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold, impacting almost every aspect of life up and down the country. As we face this public health crisis, with many now isolated in their homes, we are asking the online gambling industry to do their bit and take urgent measures to protect our nations’ financial and mental health by introducing a daily gambling limit of no more than £50.

As our daily life becomes increasingly restricted and bars, pubs and entertainment venues close, many millions of people will now be at home with time on their hands. Many will turn to the mini casino on their mobile phone for entertainment. Some of these will never have considered online gambling before, others will have spent years trying to avoid it.

We are deeply concerned that as we go deeper into this crisis, more and more people will turn to online gambling as a distraction. If the industry were to self-impose a daily limit of £50 for every individual who becomes active on gambling sites, it would be [a] clear demonstration that the industry is willing to act responsibility and do what they can to protect society and peoples’ finances, at this dreadful time.

We understand that many gamblers will have multiple accounts with different companies. We recognise that not all online gamblers will have a problem. We also understand that many gamblers can afford to gamble in excess of £50.

But in the spirit of working together and preventing harm, we urge you to introduce this £50 a day maximum spend; to suspend the facility for individuals to open extra accounts when they are known to already have an account and to increase interventions to protect gamblers.

We urge the industry to do the right thing and take immediate steps to protect the financial and mental wellbeing of our society in these unprecedented and deeply uncertain times.

Kind regards

Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of the All Parliamentary Gambling Related Harm APPG

Rt. Hon. Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP

Ronnie Cowan MP

UPDATES:

1.  On 26 March 2020, Gambling Commission CEO Neil McArthur posted his personal warning to UK licensed online gambling operators emphasising need for observance of the following principles whilst coronavirus-related social distancing measures mean that anyone other than key workers will be at home for most of the day (adding: “we are already seeing reports of an increase in online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports”):

  • Consumer protection must be paramount
  • Marketing must be conducted responsibly
  • Compliance with licence conditions and codes of practice

2.  On 27 March 2020:

(a)  Carolyn Harris wrote an Opinion article for The Guardian entitled “Isolation will fuel gambling addiction. We must protect those at risk” in which she states:

The effects of self-isolation – countless hours with often no more company than a computer screen – are also the perfect conditions for online gambling. Gambling companies have realised this and already appear to be using our newfound isolation to their own advantage. Where quarantine has meant a downturn for many businesses, gambling companies may see this period as a huge opportunity to increase their profit margins.

My inbox has been inundated with messages about targeted advertising, and offers aimed at people who usually place sports bets to trial other much more addictive casino-style games instead …..

….. Online gambling isn’t regulated by the same rules that exist for machine-betting shops or arcades, where there are stake or spend limits. Sitting at home on your computer, you can spend thousands of pounds in minutes, with little, if any, restrictions.

If the industry were to impose reduced stake limits, it would demonstrate that they are willing to both protect their customers’ safety and exercise some moral judgment. We are all facing a period of great uncertainty. I hope the gambling industry will take the necessary steps to protect the vulnerable at a time when it’s needed most.

(b) The Betting and Gaming Council announced a new 10 pledge action plan agreed with its member companies, that sets out the standards expected of its members during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, namely (in summary):

  1. Increase safer gambling messages across all sites and direct to all customers
  2. Step up interventions if customers increase time and spend beyond normal pre-crisis patterns
  3. Actively promote deposit limits
  4. Action to ensure appropriate and responsible advertising including monitoring volume
  5. Report all illegal, rogue advertising from black market online operators
  6. One-strike-and-you’re-out policy where afliates breach pledges
  7. Signpost help to GAMCARE and the National Gambling Helpline and GamStop for self-exclusion
  8. Commitment to ensuring funding for Research Education and Treatment (RET)
  9. Welfare checks and well-being help for staff
  10. Supporting the Government’s ‘National Efort’ with volunteers and facilities

(c) The Gambling Commission issued advice to consumers on how gambling companies should keep them safe while gambling online, adding: “We will continue to monitor the impacts of Covid-19 on gambling. We will be looking carefully at gambling operators’ activities and any new risks to consumers and will continue to take action where needed to protect people from harm”.