According to data from the Gambling Commission, more than one million gamblers in 2016 asked operators to ban them from betting online or in high-street bookmakers.
- One million of gamblers in 2016 asked for bans across online betting and high-street bookmakers.
- Around 50% of the UK admit to gambling.
- GAMSTOP will allow anyone in the UK to self-impose a blanket gambling ban spring 2018.
In February this year, the Commission released data showing that nearly 50% of people in the UK gamble. With this in mind, the one million requesting self-exclusion may not seem that great an issue.
But while many gamble responsibly, campaigners warn that more and more people in the UK are developing gambling addictions. The fact that the number of voluntary self-exclusions has grown from 30,000 in 2013 to more than one million in just three years shows campaigners may have a point.
The figures put further weight on the shoulders of betting operators, some of whom have been hit with heavy fines for not doing enough to spot or prevent problem behaviour.
Online-betting platforms face the most scrutiny as they make up more 95% of self-exclusions by problem gamblers. As £4.7 billion was bet online from 2016 to 2017, it makes sense that something needs to be done to ensure it becomes much easier to self-exclude…
How it will soon be easier to ‘ban’ yourself
The status quo
As it stands, gamblers must get in touch with individual operators to request exclusion. This means that if they are registered with different operators – which, given the nature of their addiction, is likely – they must go through the same process on each site. The issue with this, apart from it taking time and being tedious, is that it raises the risk of the gambler succumbing – rather than beating - their addiction.
GAMSTOP is a new scheme that allows gamblers to self-exclude through one website, rather than many sites. Created by Remote Gambling Association (RGA), the scheme’s website also sets out the steps users can take to help keep their gambling habits under control. In addition, the site offers specialist advice and provides links to support services for anyone who feels they may benefit from them.
This approach was first tried in Glasgow during 2015 and proved a success. Yet GAMSTOP will allow anyone in the UK to self-impose a blanket gambling ban. The scheme is set to launch in the spring of 2018.
How many problem gamblers live in the UK?
Further research from the Gambling Commission suggests there are around two million problem gamblers in the UK, which constitutes 1.4% of the total number. Meanwhile, 6.4% of gamblers are at risk of developing problems.
Does the scheme go far enough?
Campaigner Tony Franklin, who once lost everything he owned at the hands of his gambling addiction, says that both the government and betting operators must do more to prevent it ruining lives. Mr Franklin says that, in contrast to other forms of addiction, the issues only become apparent when the “damage is done”.
Research does advocate self-exclusion as an effective means of preventing harm to those affected. However, Mr Franklin believes that online self-exclusion scheme is "not enough". In addition to self-exclusion, he also backs “affordability checks” and other proactive measures.
The RGA says it agrees that on its own, GAMSTOP is not sufficient as a means of completely curbing gambling addiction. However, it also says that, while well-intentioned, affordability checks are both impractical and “intrusive”. The organisation goes on to state that such measures require a “layered approach” to dealing with the complex nature of the issues at hand.
So, what is being done to tackle such a complex and deep-rooted problem?
Gambling Commission set to take more action
Tim Miller, the Gambling Commission’s Executive Director, says that with “such growth comes great responsibility”. And in response to the growing popularity of gambling, the regulator intends to ensure operators do more to tackle addictions to all types of betting. But as 33% of the £13.7 billion made by the gambling industry now goes online, it makes sense that the onus will now be on internet betting.
As part of a three-year strategy, the Gambling Commission is in the process of discussing proposals to drop the maximum stake on fixed-betting terminals from £100 to £50, or even £2.