View from the Chair.
Player protection will feature large in the new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harm. This will be published by the Gambling Commission on the 25 April. For a further insight we hand over to our chair for the Player Protection Forum, David Clifton….
Just four weeks to go now to the Player Protection Forum on 22 May, which I am greatly looking forward to chairing.
Player Protection and Reducing Gambling Harm.
The issue of player protection could not be higher on the Gambling Commission’s scale of priorities than it is currently. Indeed, protecting the interests of consumers and preventing gambling harm to consumers and the public are the top two priorities listed in the Commission’s recently published Business Plan for 2019/20.
It’s a highly topical subject too. Today, Conservative MP Richard Graham’s Ten-minute Rule Bill will see him make a speech calling on the government to institute a mandatory levy on gambling operators to fund a major independent gambling-related harm research initiative and more gambling clinics.
Player protection and a change of emphasis from “responsible gambling” to “safer gambling” will also feature large in the new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harm, when it is published by the Commission tomorrow, 25 April.
Explaining this change of emphasis, the Commission’s CEO, Neil McArthur, has said:
“Responsible gambling suggests that the individual customer is principally in charge of keeping themselves safe. By focusing on safer gambling, we want to emphasise that there is a clear onus on gambling operators to protect their customers.”
Player Protection Media Coverage.
Player protection issues keep making newspaper headlines, not necessarily for all the right reasons. Recent examples include:
- the outcry that resulted from the launch of so-called “high-stake betting games” on the same day that the FOBT maximum stake reduction took place, leading the Secretary of State to say, “the actions of those who tried to find a way around the procedures banning the things that we across this House have decided should be banned were disgraceful”.
- the Guardian’s ongoing anti-gambling related harm campaign that resulted in its recent headlines “Online casino goaded addict to gamble away £20,000 on sister site” and “Online casinos ignored my obvious signs of addiction, says gambler”.
- concerns raised in Parliament about gambling online with credit cards, itself already the subject of a Gambling Commission call for evidence.
- highly critical comments about the industry made by MPs during a House of Commons non-legislative debate on the subject of gambling-related harms.
Good news relating to gambling tends not to grab the same media attention. In my view, more positive press attention should have greeted:
- the introduction with effect from 1 April of new gambling advertising standards to protect under 18s.
- the fact that LCCP changes on age and identity verification requirements for remote gambling operators will come into force on 7 May.
- the announcement that five of the UK’s largest casino and gaming companies have joined Senet Group, aiming to improve cross-sector collaboration on the development, testing and sharing of customer interventions that work.
- use by the ASA of new monitoring technology in the form of child ‘avatars’ – online profiles which simulate children’s browsing activity – to identify gambling ads that children see online.
UK Gambling Industry.
What is clear is that the UK gambling industry is likely to remain under regulatory, public, parliamentary and media siege for some considerable time to come yet. For example:
- compulsory affordability checks may be on the cards if a cross-sector collaborative approach does not succeed in developing effective approaches to assess the levels of gambling that customers can afford.
- the online gambling sector faces particular threats from the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group and the Labour Party, following its Deputy Leader’s call for mandatory limits on online gambling spending, staking and speed of play.
- greater player protection measures for category B machines are likely too, not least because the Gambling Commission says that “data indicates that the risks associated with Category B1 and B3 machines are broadly similar to the risks with B2 machines [i.e. FOBTs] at a £100 maximum stake”.
- the newly named Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (formerly the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board) has urged consideration of bans on products with features that encourage players to stake more or to take greater risks.
- with greater gambling advertising restrictions being called for across Europe, the forthcoming “whistle to whistle” ban is unlikely to assuage public concerns. Therefore support might gather for the imposition of tobacco type advertising controls, as recommended in a recent academic study.
- there will inevitably be a need for considerably greater focus on the development, testing and evaluation of customer interactions.
Player Protection Forum.
With an array of extremely knowledgeable and experienced speakers, this is most definitely the “go to” event for anyone involved in, or with an interest in, gambling player protection. I look forward to seeing you there.