The Gambling Commission have established a series of tough new challenges for their industry to follow, each designed to speed up efforts to raise gambling standards and reduce gambling harm. They plan to do this with the assistance of three groups all led by senior leaders in the gambling industry. This bold new action plan was formed following the Commission’s Chief Executive, Neil McArthur’s briefing to industry leaders last October
These three teams will each be tackling a designated area, from reviewing game and product design to investigating advertising technology as well as looking into high costing incentives to gamble, in other words VIP schemes. The last of these teams will be led by GVC Holdings and has been labelled “woefully naive”.
A Conflict Of Interest
SG Gaming and Playtech have agreed to focus on game and product design, while Sky Betting and Gaming will review advertising technology and the third group, the one headed by GVC Holdings, will address issues around VIP inducements to gamble.
As such, GVC will now head up a group that will look into the hospitality and gifts that are offered as part of a VIP scheme. They have been tasked with this to ensure greater compliance with licensing objectives to make gambling safer.
Regarding the GVC headed team, the regulator has effectively been accused of hypocrisy after their decision to let the owner of Ladbrokes Coral, among others, lead a review of online betting for VIP customers.
VIP statuses have long been under attack from the UKGC as well as the government as they are seen to incentivise repeat, and often costly, wagering by offering free bets and special offers as rewards for betting high stakes.
It is a surprise then that Ladbrokes Coral owner, GVC Holdings, who were last year fined by the UKGC for failing to keep their VIP customers safe, have been asked to review how such schemes operate. It was an announcement that the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gambling Related Harm, Carolyn Harris, called “a conflict of interest and woefully naive”.
This latest news broke in a week where the UKGC also published independent advice from its expert advisory groups to reduce online gambling harm and called on gambling operators to ensure that they met all of the relevant transparency and safety standards criteria previously outlined by the Gambling Commission.
This call to action followed the discovery that as many as six gambling operators had been offering products that provided a featured buy-in on their slots games, although all six operators have since removed this feature from their sites. Featured buy-in slots are effectively slots games that let you buy your way into the bonus round with one game found to be charging as much as £3,000 to buy into the bonus.
In a letter to operators, the UKGC reminded operators that an explanation of the applicable rules must be available and easy for the customer to read before they consider gambling and that, under no circumstances, must any gambling products actively encourage customers to chase their losses or increase their stake, especially if the player has indicated that they wish to quit.
This week also saw the UKGC publish independent gambling harm recommendations outlined by their advisory groups. The expert groups are the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG) and the Digital Advisory Panel (DAP). The ABSG provide advice with the final goal being a United Kingdom free from gambling harm fallout, while the DAP advises on gambling harm management.
The advice made clear in the reports includes the need to further understand the link between game design and gambling harms as well as proposing new approaches to gambling harm education such as consulting with those who do or have gambled online in order to understand what drives them to gamble further.
Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said;
“Consumer behaviour and technology are changing so quickly that only a bold and innovative approach will allow us to achieve a reduction in the numbers of people experiencing, or at risk from, gambling related harm.
“I’ve been encouraged by the willingness of so many operators to work with us on these challenges. We’ve set a demanding timetable for progress because we cannot proceed at the speed of the slowest. If rapid progress is not made then we will have to look at other options as making gambling safer for consumers is paramount.”