Following a review by the Gambling Commission, online operators must now take account of the Commission’s additional guidance [1]. The GHA is recommending these targeted player protection measures are extended when the lockdown ends, covering areas including affordability assessments, promotional activities and a review of thresholds for all new and existing customers, in order to inform operators of individual’s play and spend patterns.

As we exit lockdown, the UK faces a significant rise in unemployment rates and a period of financial uncertainty, leaving many of the public at increased vulnerability to gambling related harm. Taking a precautionary approach, the GHA believes it is vital these measures remain in force.

The GHA is also calling for further restrictions on gambling advertising, following findings from a GHA survey revealing that two in five (40%) respondents who engaged in gambling activity or have done in the past had seen an increase in advertising for online gambling sites on social media while under lockdown.

While the announcement from the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) earlier this month to stop all advertising on TV and radio during lockdown [2] was a step in the right direction, the GHA is calling for all a ban on all gambling advertising throughout lockdown, including advertising for the National Lottery, which could also be triggering for those vulnerable to gambling related harm.

The Alliance is also calling on Government and industry to ensure that prior to the reopening of gambling premises such as betting shops next month and the return of sports, that regulation is reviewed and updated appropriately to ensure that moving forward, the public are better protected from gambling related harm.

Duncan Stephenson, Chair of the GHA and Deputy Chief Executive of RSPH, said:

“While the coronavirus lockdown has made everyday life challenging for many of us, for people vulnerable to gambling related harm this is a particularly difficult time and unfortunately for so many, when lockdown measures are eventually lifted, enormous financial pressures will remain.

The stricter measures have come at a vital moment where there is increased risk to many, but we also know that these risks will not go away once lockdown is lifted. As with so many issues, this pandemic has shone a spotlight on pre-existing holes in the system, and we must take this opportunity to build back a new and improved ‘normal’.

Returning to previous arrangements would undoubtedly cause further harm, in particular to society’s most vulnerable. Instead, Government and industry must step-up and build upon the player protection measures implemented during lockdown, in order to adequately protect the public from gambling related harm.”

Michael Sheen, Vice President of RSPH, actor and Chair of the End High Cost Credit Alliance commented:

“The coronavirus lockdown has dramatically changed most of our everyday lives. Many will be socially isolated, under enormous financial pressures, bored and anxious and this set of circumstances could serve as a trigger for those vulnerable to gambling related harms”.

 

Ronnie Cowan, Vice Chair of the APPG on Gambling Related Harm, said:

“Because social media has become such a huge part of many people’s lives in respect of entertainment, communications and gathering information, it has also become a platform for advertising.

“The nature of social media can make that advertising seem more personal. We must do everything we can to protect people that are liable to experience gambling related harm and a full ban of advertising is the most secure way we have. In the same way as isolation protects us from Covid-19, being isolated from gambling adverts helps to isolate us from gambling related harm.”

 

[1] https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/news/2020/Gambling-Commission-instructs-tighter-measures-to-protect-consumers-during-lockdown.aspx published 12 May 2020

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/27/uk-betting-firms-to-stop-advertising-on-tv-and-radio-during-lockdown