A call to action: No more exploitation and manipulation of C19 towards disordered gamblers

Our panel member Danny Cheetham switched straight back into the mindset of his disordered world when the C19 virus began to emerge.  He warned that people being asked to work from home would be immediately susceptible to turning to harmful forms of gambling, such as EGMs and live casino games, such as Roulette, Blackjack and Poker.  In the absence of sport betting, there is a real risk that the average controlled gambler or even ‘problem gamblers’, a term that we now reference as being a group that isn’t yet disordered but are showing signs of becoming disordered (as per the DSM’s 9-point checklist), would alter their gambling habits which would then become more than just a problem for them and those close to them.  With financial uncertainty likely to affect a vast proportion of us in the coming weeks and months, many will look to harmful forms of gambling as a way to boost their finances.  We anticipated that some industry tactics could be used to encourage this via marketing ploys and we made it clear that we would be monitoring any hint of malpractice.  Sure enough, just a week or so into the C19 crisis in the UK, we have come across what can only be described as the lowest form of marketing an affiliate could reach.

The email, titled, ‘Carona Virus Safe Casino’ with the usual 100% sign-up offer with 30 free spins on one of the most popular EGMs of the moment, ‘Book of Dead’ landed in the email box of a twitter user The charity Gambling With Lives, together with us, asked the betting and Game Council to comment upon the email.  To their credit, they responded promptly by stating that they do not condone the email and further stated that the company in question was not a member of theirs.  Now this is where the affiliate situation can be easily unpicked and can be easily brushed under the carpet as well.  In the Lords recently I sat bemused in front of my computer monitor when the so-called ‘Big guns’ (Mr Coates, Kenny Alexander et al) were all supportive of measures to make affiliates accountable for their actions.  Whilst I don’t blame them for allowing this deflection to have occurred, as after all, they were simply answering the leading questions given to them, this was a totally bizarre five minutes for me.  The reason is simple- the current LCCPs clearly state that the licence holder is responsible for their affiliates.  So, if the affiliates mess-up, the buck (should) stop with the licence holder.  The Big-Guns know this and so do we so there’s no use in simply telling us that you can’t control what your affiliates do.

In June 2019, the-then Deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson, called upon the Gambling Commission to request that all UKGC licence holders should reapply for their licences.  This appeared to fall on deaf ears.  The White Label industry need to be properly reviewed and scrutinised and welcome the calls from some within the industry that agree.  ‘Justice4Punters’ have long been calling for this side of the industry to immediately change, again the Gambling Commission just refused to listen to them.

We therefore urge the Betting and Gaming Council to join us by asking that the Gambling Commission immediately look into this case and the use of White Labels within gambling.  Should the Gambling Commission not wish to do so, then we will look upon the government to intervene as a matter of urgency.  We are not prepared to allow one more vulnerable person to be targeted and exploited by such deplorable actions of a select part of the gambling industry that is simply not fit for purpose.