- Self-exclusion a popular choice for many problem gamblers
- GamStop “one stop shop” platform enables them to self-exclude from multiple sites
- The self-certifying service can apparently be overridden
- Company’s CEO “deeply concerned” over flaws
- Politician brands scheme “unfit for purpose
2018 was the year that tech-savvy apps and banks came to the aid of vulnerable gamblers who are trying to break their gambling habits. Self-exclusion has become popular over the last 18 months with everyone from regulators to banks jumping on board.
The previous difficulties with self-exclusion have come from the necessity to declare yourself excluded from every operator you have opened an account with, which can be a time-consuming and lengthy process.
But recently flaws have been found in these technological options that enable users to “cheat” these systems, which means that some restrictions can be exploited.
Easy way to help vulnerable users
GamStop launched in April 2018 as an easy way for vulnerable users to help them stop their addiction growing. It advertised itself as a one-stop shop to exclude yourself easily from further gambling opportunities.
Once a user has entered the details of the relevant accounts that they hold, GamStop would then block any bets that were placed. The widely advertised free service is supposed to stop problem gamblers from being able to log on to any of the sites they had entered, but a new BBC 5 Live investigation has found a series of flaws in the system.
Still easy to bet online
An investigation by the team from BBC Radio 5’s show 5 Live Investigates found that a simple misspelling of the name or the use of a different email address could allow that person to carry on betting.
These small changes allowed users to open new accounts and continue gambling – something that the head of GamStop said she is “deeply concerned about”. Fiona Palmer has since admitted that the service is not working well enough.
Meanwhile the UK’s regulator – the Gambling Commission – has said that more stringent ID checks are necessary.
It’s not the first time that BBC 5 Live have taken a good look at self-exclusion. Last year the show tested self-exclusion on the high street, where a producer tried to exclude himself from 21 betting shops in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, using the Multi-Operator Self Exclusion Scheme (MOSES). He later found he was still able to bet in 19 of them.
Lessons to be learned
Despite operator Senet Group vowing that “lessons would be learned”, a different producer from 5 Live Investigates banned himself from 20 of the same shops in the town a year later, but was still able to bet in 15 of them.
Senet group uses funding from bookmakers to run the scheme. It said while the results were disappointing, MOSES was an “important first step for people who genuinely want to reduce their gambling”.
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said it was “disappointed” with the findings but added that it was encouraged by a survey from participants of the scheme.
Carried out by charity GambleAware, the survey found that “83% said that it had been effective in reducing or stopping their gambling activity and 71% said they have not attempted to use their nominated betting shops since signing up”.
Meanwhile, shadow culture secretary Tom Watson has branded the schemes “not fit for purpose” and vowed to take the BBC’s findings to the government.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs a cross-party group of MPs on gambling-related harm, added: “Any system which is easily manipulated like this is not worth it – they have to be robust enough to withstand deliberate attempts to get around them.”