The UK’s gambling scene has been facing a difficult time in recent years. The industry’s been trying to come across the public’s allegations of failing in providing support and required measures for those who struggle with problem gambling. With the advancement and popularisation of online gaming, comes also the need for establishing a responsible gambling framework that can help stop the alarming situation. Currently, more than 2 million people in the UK are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction*. The trend has been growing and the discussed problem behaviour doesn’t only affect adult gamblers but also minors, who are exposed to gambling on an every-day basis by scrolling through social media feed, surfing the web or watching TV commercials that tempt viewers with lucrative lotto or bingo winnings.
Only recently, a new study revealed that the number of children classed as having a gambling problem had quadrupled to more than 50,000 in just two years. The governing bodies, including the Advertising Standards Authority and the UK’s Gambling Commission, have been regularly updating the regulations for the casino and betting sector to improve the alarming situation across the country. With the proliferation of promotions found online, including the UK’s latest bonuses for casino and sports betting or personalised offers sent to individual players, the number of problem gamblers continues to grow. Will this vicious cycle ever stop?
Gambling Industry Leaders Decide To Act
Experiencing the massive drop in trust, gambling companies quickly realised they need to act fast to not only fight the negative PR but also continue running a successful business. Only recently, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power operators’ shares were massively hit when MPs in a cross-party group announced that they believed the maximum stake for online betting should be reduced to £2.
After years of criticism that the industry wasn’t doing enough to protect players and wasn’t capable of creating a safe gambling environment, the key gambling companies have agreed to commit to 5 safer gambling commitments. The agreement was signed by ten well-recognised firms:
– William Hill
– GVC Holdings
– Flutter Entertainment
– Rank Group
– Sky Betting & Gaming
Considering the fact that Flutter Entertainment is the official name of the group behind Paddy Power and Betfair and GVC Holdings holds responsibility for Ladbrokes and Coral, it’s fair to admit that all of the gambling industry’s leaders have appeared on the list.
5 Rules To Obey
When signing the new pact, the CEOs of the above-listed companies have agreed on the set of 5 responsible gambling commitments:
– Prevent underage gambling and attempt to protect young people
– Increase support offered to people who need treatment for gambling harm
– Strengthen the codes of practice around the advertising and marketing of gambling products
– Empower and protect customers
– Promote a culture of gambling in a safer environment
The participating businesses are full of hope. They share the belief that the new, collective work will make a significant difference in the UK gambling market that surely needs a major change.
Commenting on the announcement, Peter Jackson, Chief Executive of Flutter Entertainment, said: “These commitments are an important step forward for the sector in their own right and also signal a genuine desire to ensure that acting responsibly is at the heart of our businesses. The five core safer gambling commitments will hope to deliver long-term and fundamental changes in how gambling companies are run in the UK and how they empower, protect and support their customers.”
The development of these pledges was facilitated by the industry-funded Senet Group, which was established to promote safer gambling. The initiative is funded by the industry and supports the work of the UKGC. Put together by Ladbrokes, Coral, William Hill and Paddy Power, the Senet Group operates as an independent body.
One of the first initiatives coming off the back of the new pact has been the launch of a 4-year national programme to educate young people, to be delivered by two charities, GamCare and the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust, and funded by a £10m grant from the industry.
The charities will collaborate on improving the support system for young people and their families, as well as raising awareness related to risks associated with gambling. Affiliate marketing and sponsorship activities will now be affected by the soon-to-be-developed new codes of conduct. Additionally, to improve transparency and accountability, the firms have agreed on regular and public checks with independent monitors such as the UKGC, HM Treasury and the UK Evaluation Society.
The decision of creating a new partnership between ten top gambling firms comes together with the launch of the UK’s ‘Betting and Gaming Council’ that aims to represent betting shops, gaming business and casinos to bring the industry together, ensuring a fairer and safer gaming space for all. The body will replace the existing trade associations of the Remote Gambling Association and the Association of British Bookmakers. Quite unfortunately for the new authority, its launch was clearly blinded by the news of the new partnership agreed by ten most powerful gambling companies in the UK.
Same Old, Same Old…
What’s the most striking in the announcement of the industry leaders’ co-operation is not their commitment to supporting safer gambling but rather the fact that nothing new has happened or been promised. The battle against problem gambling behaviour and the rising number of people negatively affected by it has been ongoing for years and both the industry and governing bodies have failed multiple times to improve the situation.
Cynically, many now suggest that the CEOs of the top gambling firms have simply reacted fast enough to establish the new pact before they end up being forced by the government themselves. The promises outlined in the 5 pledges, too, sound very, or maybe even too familiar. They’re not any different to the sort of things that the UKGC has been focusing on to make gambling companies do for years. In this situation, the only difference is that the industry giants officially have signed up to obey new obligations when moving forward in their operations. How measurable this work can be, though?
With the unfortunate historical record, it’s hard to believe a positive change will magically occur, re-shaping the industry to finally meet the requirements of the modern-day, safe online gambling environment. Despite all the negativity and lack of enthusiasm towards another, multiplied for the nth time initiative, it’s still worth hoping that this one will actually make a difference. Because it’s about the time that we see the change, not just blindly believe in one.