More Woes: Bad Reports Pile Up for the UK Gambling Sector
This week has not been a good one for the UK gambling industry, with two new critical reports and a Parliamentary letter hitting media front pages.
The first report came from the Gordon Moody Association. The GMA is one of the oldest problem gambling charities in the country.
Its latest press release revealed that it had received nearly 30 times more calls compared to the same period in early April last year. That was only a few weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the UK into social lockdown on the 23rd of March.
The second report came from a Daily Mail investigation. It claims that up to £47 million (~$60 million) was gambled by under-18-year-olds through the National Lottery’s online slots service in 2018.
Currently, all online and offline casino gaming in the UK requires players to be over 18. The UK’s National Lottery services, run by the company Camelot, are available to those aged 16 and over.
The Daily Mail report called for this disparity to be investigated and reviewed by the government.
The Gordon Moody Association pointed towards the economic and emotional stress of lockdown as a trigger for some of the relapses it had seen. A large percentage of its increased call volume was down to previous charity contacts returning.
The GMA runs residential support groups for the small minority of the most extreme problem gamblers who need the highest level of help and intervention.
“We did feel that we were likely to experience a major storm because of the coronavirus crisis,” said charity CEO Michael Hickey. “We’re definitely seeing an upsurge in numbers now,” he finished.
The UK’s largest gambling charity, GamCare, has also spoken to journalists.
Back in April, it told the Financial Times that it had actually seen a fall in the number of callers.
However, it also said it had seen a rise in callers wanting to end their self-exclusion plans with the charity.
This seems to fit with Moody’s experience. Not many UK citizens are picking up gambling for the first time during the lockdown, but previous and existing gamblers seem to find it more tempting.
A survey in late April by Surveytion also bore out that general trend with data. Thirty-eight percent of Brits who put themselves down as “regular gamblers” said they had gambled more since the lockdown hit.
On the flip side, that makes 62% who said they gambled the same or less than they normally would. Take from that what you will.
Underage Gambling “Epidemic”
The Daily Mail story is more likely to gain traction with the public, as well as gambling operators.
It’s long been a bone of contention among UK gambling groups that Camelot is allowed many freedoms with the National Lottery that other operators aren’t.
This is especially true with how popular its online “scratchcards” are, many of which are interactive games that don’t particularly resemble a simple scratch card.
In fact, this message is supported by the All Parliamentary Group on Gambling, with whom regular readers of our pages are likely familiar.
“The lottery is clearly competing with mainstream gambling companies, but they have the advantage of being able to target children,” said group member and Labour MP Carolyn Harris.
The cross-party group of MPs has been pushing for reform on the Gambling Act 2005 for years. Camelot’s age restrictions have not been updated since further back than that—1995, to be exact.
“It is appropriate to review the minimum age for playing National Lottery games for the next license period, as it has been more than 25 years since these restrictions were set,” said a Camelot representative.
The Government’s official review of the Gambling Act 2005 has been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, of which the UK has suffered the third most deadly outbreak in the world.
However, other emergency measures have been taken, including the long-awaited credit card ban back in April and a moratorium on nearly all advertising from all operators represented by one of the largest gambling groups in the country.
Keep checking our pages for the latest on this story as it develops—and many more from around the world.