UK Minister Urges Gambling Companies to Do More to Protect Vulnerable People

  • Nigel Huddleston wrote a letter to the five chief executives of the largest gambling companies
  • Wants safer gambling messages in adverts to be more prominent during the lockdown
  • Anecdotal evidence points toward many people playing online casino games while at home
businessman in a suit signing a letter
Nigel Huddleston has written a letter to the five chief executives of the largest gambling companies, urging them to do more to protect vulnerable gamblers during the lockdown. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Calls to go above and beyond

UK sports minister Nigel Huddleston is calling on the gambling sector to go further than a 10-point pledge to protect vulnerable people during the lockdown.

A number of politicians have criticized the pledge outlined by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) that aims to help curtail problem gambling while many people across the country are confined to their homes.

Huddleston sent a letter to the chief executives of Flutter Entertainment, William Hill, Skybet, GVC Holdings, and Bet365 in relation to this issue. He wants all ads that air during the lockdown to display safe gambling messages more prominently.

Huddleston sent a letter to the chief executives of Flutter Entertainment, William Hill, Skybet, GVC Holdings, and Bet365

The minister highlighted how there is a “heightened risk” for gamblers at the moment, and that more needs to be done by operators to protect vulnerable people.

Increased online casino activity

While there is not a lot of concrete data out there yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that betting companies are trying to make up for sports betting shortfalls by increasing the number of online casino ads on social media. 

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has seen signs of increased online casino activity. Huddleston told the gambling firms in his letter that they will likely receive a request from the UKGC for detailed data relating to gambling patterns during the lockdown. This will help to determine if further measures should be taken by the authorities. 

Of those who play online slots and casino games regularly, 9.2% of them are deemed to have a serious gambling problem. This compares to 2.5% of online sports bettors.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been receiving more complaints relating to gambling advertising during the lockdown than it usually does. 

Battle against problem gambling

Huddleston’s letter also calls for gambling companies to hurry up with their reviews on VIP schemes, game design, and advertising technology.

The sports minister has also asked for an update on the industry’s plan to increase expenditure on the research and treatment of gambling addiction. Major gambling companies previously committed to spending £100m ($123m) over the course of four years on this program. 

BGC’s 10-point pledge

It was in the early stages of the UK’s lockdown that the BGC published its 10-point pledge. Among its promises was that its members would not be exploiting people who are vulnerable to gambling problems due to long periods at home and out of work. 

all of the proposals were either weak, vague, or already part of their license requirements

However, several lords, MPs, and a leading gambling addiction expert wrote a letter to Huddleston at the start of April condemning the BGC’s pledge. They said all of the proposals were either weak, vague, or already part of their license requirements. 

Struggling betting companies

With sporting events across the world either being canceled or postponed, sportsbooks have been looking at different ways to generate revenue. This includes offering odds on more obscure sports, such as table tennis and drone racing. There has also been a much greater emphasis on esports. 

In the UK, concerns were raised that gambling companies would not receive financial aid from the government. However, the BGC wrote a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak and was able to ensure that aid would be given to these businesses. 

Despite this help, many operators have suspended forecasts for the year, watched their stock prices tumble, cut dividends, and issued profit warnings.