UK Gambling Watchdog Urges Operators to ‘Act Responsibly’ as England Enters New Lockdown

  • UKGC reminded licensees of the importance of customer protection during lockdown
  • CEO McArthur advised online operators to intervene if bettors show signs of gambling harm
  • He said licensees should not exploit the nationwide lockdown for the purpose of marketing
  • BGC also reaffirmed its ten-pledge safer gambling plan for members to uphold during this period
Union Jack flag with Covid-19 stamp above it and the Houses of Parliament building in the background
With England in a fresh lockdown until December 2, the CEO of the UKGC told online gambling operators to “act responsibly” when dealing with new and existing customers. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Country in lockdown until December 2

As England entered a new lockdown at 00:01am on November 5, UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) CEO Neil McArthur urged online operators to “act responsibly” in their treatment of new and existing customers.

McArthur’s business-to-business message for gambling licensees came alongside a UKGC tweet on the evening of November 5, a few hours before lockdown started. The tweet linked to a webpage dedicated to gambling advice for the general public:

As England attempts to contain the rapid spike in COVID-19 cases, the new four-week lockdown means people will be spending more time at home. McArthur warned that a symptom of the current environment could see people feeling vulnerable about their personal situations, besides being anxious about their jobs or financial circumstances.

intervene quickly if bettors show signs they’re experiencing gambling harm

He said online operators should know their customers and intervene quickly if bettors show signs they’re experiencing gambling harm, or are at risk of harm.

The UKGC’s webpage included in the November 5 tweet advises the public not to gamble to improve finances, to limit the amount of gambling content viewed on social media, and to consider self-exclusion and use wagering website blocking software. It also suggests blocking gambling payments through banks, making sure the operator is UKGC licensed, and keeping personal gambling under control.

Gambling risks up

In his address, McArthur reiterated the commission’s guidance to online operators back in May. The measures ensured extra protection for consumers, following evidence of a greater risk of harm during lockdown.

Licensees, he said, should therefore ensure responsible practices “particularly around individual customer affordability checks and increased social responsibility interactions.” 

not exploiting the lockdown for the purpose of marketing

Online gambling businesses must also observe responsible marketing policies, the CEO added in his message. These include adopting a socially responsible approach to signing up new customers, and not exploiting the lockdown for the purpose of marketing.

BGC says members back on board

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) meanwhile also issued a statement on November 5 reaffirming its ten-pledge action plan for the fresh lockdown. The industry representative initially unveiled the safer gambling pledges during the first UK-wide lockdown in March.

BGC members have once again got on board with the ten pledges. These include additional safer betting messages, clearly promoting deposit limits, and stepping up interventions should customers increase gambling time and spend beyond their normal patterns.

Council CEO Michael Dugher said it delighted him that members “did not hesitate” to once again sign up to the ten pledges before a new lockdown, one that is “admittedly with far fewer restrictions”. The council’s pledges make clear the standards expected of its members in the weeks to come, he remarked.

The second one-month lockdown for England is set to last until at least December 2.