Gambling – An industry that preys on society’s vulnerable or a responsible leisure provider?
There has been a lot of coverage in the mainstream media lately about the effects of problem gambling and the apparent lack of concern from the betting industry. With public perception being fueled by journalists, politicians and researchers alike, it really is time for operators to take note and ensure their social responsibility strategies are robust and visible. Promoting responsible gambling has to be at the top of the agenda.
One of the core principles set out in the Gambling Act 2005 is protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling. All operators sign up to this principle when they are granted a licence. But how well are they actually fulfilling this responsibility and how seriously is it really considered?
In August the Gambling Commission published research suggesting that in excess of two million people are at-risk or classified as problem gamblers. The poor and less educated being at a higher risk than others in society.
Adding fuel to the fire was the record £7.8million fine issued by the Gambling Commission to 888 for failing vulnerable customers. Some 7,000 plus customers who had chosen to self exclude from one 888 platform were still able to access their accounts on other platforms owned by the same company. The operator also failed to detect and recognise signs of problem gambling resulting in one customer staking 850,000 bets in one year for £1.3million, including money stolen from their employer. The lack of intervention in this case raised serious concerns about 888’s safeguarding of customers at risk of gambling harm. The Senet Group have commented that this high profile case should not take away from the general success of self exclusion or undermine the importance of social responsibility programmes.
This issue was once again brought to our attention by the case of Eric Baptista who was given a 12 month suspended sentence and 150 hours of unpaid community work after pleading guilty in Liverpool crown court to charges of criminal damage. Baptista, a problem gambler who often lost hundreds of pounds playing fixed odds betting terminals, flipped and went on a vandalism spree causing £36,000 worth of damage to booking shops across Liverpool in May this year. Baptista claimed that he had begged to be barred from all of his local bookies but they continued to serve him regardless. This incident raises serious questions about self exclusion and how seriously it is actually taken by the industry!
The Guardian newspaper published a report last week claiming that operators are paying third-party companies to harvest data which is then used to profile and target people on low incomes or those who have stopped gambling. This shines a light on gambling affiliates and their use of personal data an issue which will not simply go away especially in light of the European GDPR regulation which comes into force next May.
Finally this week, we saw the Labour Party calling for a ban on gambling firms sponsoring football shirts. Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Tom Watson said football had to “play its part in tackling Britain’s hidden epidemic of gambling addiction.” 9 out of the 20 Premier League clubs currently have kits sponsored by betting companies with deals worth £47.3million this season. Betting on football is a long standing tradition worth a reported £1.4billion per year and enjoyed responsibly by many. This move is not unprecedented though, in June this year the FA ended its £4 million a year sponsorship deal with Ladbrokes Coral Group on the grounds that it is not appropriate for a governing body to have a gambling partner.
There is undoubtedly more regulation on the horizon and the media don’t seem to be letting up on the pressure they are putting on the industry. It really is time for operators to demonstrate to the regulators and the public alike that they take social responsibility seriously by promoting responsible gambling.
Join KnowNow in London on 18th January at our event Social Responsibility for Gambling Operators to take an in-depth look at these issues and how to tackle them.