Carolyn Harris, chair of the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), has called on the UK operators to step up efforts to protect customers amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this week, the APPG wrote to industry trade group the Betting and Gaming Concil (BGC), urging its members to introduce a £50 daily gambling limit for punters. This would be a “clear demonstration that the industry is willing to act responsibly and do what they can to protect society and peoples’ finances,” according to APPG.
Speaking to iGB, APPG’s chair and Swansea East MP Harris explained that she had already has several individuals tell her that they were being “inundated” with emails and messages from operators, persuading them to wager online.
“[And] this is a worry because if you are a problem gambler and you have all of this extra time on your hands sat at home, we need to ensure these temptations are not there if they are trying to keep away from gambling,” she said.
“This is not the right time to be stepping up marketing operations – the providers need to be behaving responsibly and I think a £50 cap would demonstrate this.”
Harris is already leading the charge for wholesale changes to the UK gambling regulations after putting forward proposals for a £2 online slot stake cap. She said it was only appropriate that operators introduce new restrictions.
“On countless occasions we have seen how a gambling addiction can completely ruin an individual’s and their family’s lives – pushing them into unmanageable debt and leading to detrimental effects on mental health for the problem gambler and the closest around them,” she said.
“With some betting bosses being the highest paid in the UK, making this adjustment to protect problem gamblers would be a fair compromise.”
Her comments come after 888 Holdings yesterday said that it would be vigilant in its efforts to ensure customers gamble sustainably during the COVID-19 crisis. The operator went on to say that consumers spending more time at home and facing heightened stress from economic uncertainty, it was really crucial to protect punters.
The group said it would continue to provide customers with support and is promoting the myriad of safer gambling tools it offers to punters, and using its Observer software to keep an eye on player information to identify possible issues.
Harris said the APPG would also consider to do its part to ensure problem players still have access to treatment despite the social distancing measures forced by the crisis.
“We know that there will be an increase pressure on services at the moment, as there is on all support services because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said. “Continuity of support for problem gamblers is key but it is obviously important that everyone is following the guidelines and advice around social distancing.
“The APPG itself does not have facilities to shift services online for problem gambling support services, but we are happy to engage with the relevant Ministers to ask for assistance when required, to help services achieve this move.”