UK Minister urges betting companies to do more about gambling addiction

Due to the current situation, many people have fallen into the trap of recklessly gambling online. Last week, the sports minister Nigel Huddleston warned casino operators about the increased risk of players becoming addicted and urges them to put more effort into stopping them.

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While we don’t have any solid data yet, we have noticed an increase in the number of online casino ads on Youtube and other social media platforms lately. This is an attempt by the betting companies to mitigate their profit losses caused by the current situation as much as possible. Luckily, Huddleston wrote a letter addressed to the largest five gambling firms in the UK in which he demands safer advertisements that are less persuasive and point out the risks of gambling, at least for now. Learn more about how the iGaming industry leaders have managed to stay on track even during such a difficult situation.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has recently pointed out that there has been a surge in online gambling lately, which is directly correlated to gambling addiction. According to statistics, at least 9.2% of the online casino customers are problem gamblers. In his letter, Huddleston mentioned that they will most likely receive a request from the UKGC for a detailed report regarding online gambling patterns during the crisis, which will help them determine what further measures should the authorities take in addressing the issue. “I expect patterns of play to be closely monitored so we can move quickly if there is any evidence of problem gambling increasing.” he declared. 

There is a huge number of complaints received by the Advertising Standards Authority, related to the increase in online casino advertisements in the past few months. In an attempt to deal with the flood of gambling ads, the BGC started using slogans such as “When the fun stops, stop.”, which have proven to be completely ineffective, especially because the word “fun” was highlighted, which defeats the purpose of the message.

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In his letter, the sports minister also requested operators to solve the problem with the reviews on the VIP schemes, addictive game design, and advertising technology. Additionally, he demands an update on the industry’s plan to invest more in treating gambling addiction. For four years, the largest online casino firms spent more than £100 million on this program, but these efforts are yet to show a considerable decrease in gambling addiction. 

This March, the BGC issued its 10-point pledge, which ensures that firms would not try to take advantage of vulnerable people and addicts who are certainly exposed to a much higher risk of problem gambling due to the stay-at-home orders which were imposed. However, earlier this month, Huddleston received a letter written by MPs, Lords, and a gambling addiction expert, criticizing BGC’s pledge. They stated that “all of the proposals were either weak, vague or already part of their licence requirements”. It’s about time the government takes some measures regarding this problem since many gambling companies are exploiting this situation through persuasive marketing communications which can greatly increase the number of addicts, rendering the BGC pledge obsolete. Therefore, the government promised to review the Gambling Act adopted in 2005 and they will release more information later this year. 

In response to the minister’s letter, the members of BGC said that they will happily comply with his requests. They said: “We will work with you, the government, and the regulator to address any further areas where there is an identifiable increased risk to customers during the current crisis”.

On the other hand, betting companies have been looking at different ways to stay profitable in a period in which most major sports events have been cancelled. Sportsbooks started offering wagers on less popular sports, such as drone racing or table tennis. Additionally, esports betting is on the rise, especially with the world championships right around the corner.

In the UK, there were numerous concerns that casino operators might not receive financial aid from the government during the crisis. However, in a letter to Rishi Sunak, the BCG ensured that these companies will receive financial help. Despite this assistance, many businesses have delayed their forecasts for 2020 and watched their stocks plunging to an all-time low and issued profit warnings.

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