By Charlotte Webster-
The Gambling Commission has been assessing the impact of recent events on the gambling industry after noticing a spike in online gambling since self isolation was imposed by the British government in a bid to combat the Coronavirus.
The Commission said it has been “assessing how we should approach our own work over the coming months.” The social distancing measures which includes self isolation at home imposed by the British Government has led to reports of an increase in online slots, poker, casino gaming, and virtual sports.
As a result of these recent events, risks of harm arising from online gambling have increased, Neil McArthur, the CEO of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) says operators must be especially aware that protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling needs to remain “a major priority.”
McArthur has stressed the importance of responsible conduct, particularly around individual customer affordability checks and increased social responsibility interactions. In particular, vulnerability and concern surrounding financial uncertainty in these extraordinary times has been highlighted as a crucial point to note.
The Gambling Commission has rightly noted that a feeling of isolation can result in feelings of anxiety, loneliness or boredom, which could lead to further unpredictable behaviour. In relation to consumer protection, the commission said operators must be very mindful that some customers may be vulnerable and experiencing financial uncertainty, whilst others may be experiencing other effects of being isolated including, for example, feelings of anxiety, loneliness or boredom.
He warned that they are expected to “act responsibly, especially around individual customer affordability checks and increased social responsibility interactions.” and “step in if they are showing signs that they are experiencing or at risk of harm.”
McArthur then referred to responsible marketing, saying the commission expects operators to “onboard new customers in a socially responsible way,” warning them not to “exploit the current situation for marketing purposes.”
He has warned operators to act in a way that minimises the risks to the licensing objectives and also treat consumers fairly and communicate with them in a clear way that allows them to make a properly informed judgement about whether to gamble.
“You should be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell online gaming products to customers who signed up with you in order to bet and we expect you to ensure that your affiliates are conducting themselves appropriately.”
McArthur went on explaining they expect online firms to work with the Commission in an open and co-operative way and act in accordance with “both the letter or the spirit of the regulatory framework we have set.”
Finally, he warned operators that if the UKGC sees irresponsible behavioUr, they will step in immediately. “Whilst I know that the current climate is unprecedented, gambling operators must play their part in making sure that people are kept safe.”