PUBLICATION DATE: Thursday 19th March 2020.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 0901 hours
PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM PANEL MEMBER OF GAMVISORY GROUP, DANNY CHEETHAM.
A MESSAGE TO UKGC LICENCE HOLDERS: MAKE A MEANINGUL DIFFERENCE
Many industries are going to struggle during the current coronavirus timeline which we still cannot reliably predict what the journey ahead entails. It’s a time of uncertainty, it’s a time of battles for many, not least psychologically. The gambling industry should tread carefully to not become one of the few sectors which solely focusses on an opportunity to profit from disordered gamblers during truly harrowing times, to offset their losses.
All operators have tools which are available to their customers to ensure social responsibility is achieved but these shouldn’t be a minimum requirement. It would be a positive move to consider stepping up the usage of these, protecting customers and doing your part to show we are all in this together and tell us that you’re doing this.
Many customers will be home-based, working reduced hours, facing up to uncertainty or even facing redundancy. The hurdle is you won’t automatically know this. Would it not make sense to consider enforcing a deposit limit for all players, at a value which you know will ensure you are not going to be causing potential further hardship to your customers? Land based casinos have been reacting internationally with initiatives like powering down 50% of machines to ensure space between customers. Finland has agreed to turn off EGMs for the foreseeable during the outbreak. Vegas has shut-down. Whilst the online world may not be exposed to the physical issues of CV19, they may certainly be exposed to a psychological fallout from it and they need to show their duty of care.
Let’s not see this as becoming another damaging period in the current climate, like during the foot and mouth outbreak, which led to the surge in virtual sports betting. Many of your customers will not be gambling for the entertainment or fun side, which is a key marketing industry message. They will likely be gambling due to feeling isolated, being faced with immediate and sudden debts or even just to try turn a negative situation into a positive, and of course boredom. It’s vital that this side of customers’ motivations is not turned into an even further negative experience for them.
Trends and insights will be seen quickly to change, logging on at different times, larger deposits than previous, more impulsive play, longer periods gambling. At what point do these actions not turn into an additional wider side effect of Coronavirus? Rules governing interaction around these key harm-markers have long been in existence.
The government are likely to increase cash access to businesses and individuals through loans/grants. It’s critical this money is used for its intended purposes which is to help get us through the upcoming months, this will be a dilemma for many people who battle to control their gambling urges. Would the consideration of a mandatory question (followed-up with proof) to check source of funds be a considerate step too far? We don’t think so. We are all in this together and need to know that those at the most vulnerable ends of society are looked after.