In response to the current coronavirus shutdown that is affecting most of the world, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) of the United Kingdom has issued a 10-point ‘safety plan’ that it expects all stakeholders in the world of online betting and gambling to adhere to until the coronavirus shutdown is eased. The BGC is a recently-created standards body for all forms of betting and gambling in the UK. Its remit is to produce standards for businesses in the UK that are involved in any form of wagering, including UK online casinos, any online bookmaker and real-world betting shops and casinos.
These ten ‘pledges’ are designed to build upon the interventions performed by the BGC as part of its commitment to the increased safety of the consumer while using any kind of wagering services provider including online casinos in the UK. Due to the current coronavirus lockdown, the BGC has decided it will increase its monitoring of wagering services providers. While gambling revenue is likely to fall heavily in some areas (the lack of sport will, of course, hit any online sportsbook hard), with people having more time on their hands it’s thought those who are vulnerable to problem gambling may find it harder to keep away from online gambling sites. The guidelines brought in by the BGC aim to keep all players safe during the coronavirus lockdown.
The ten points are as follows:
Increase safer gambling messages across all sites and direct to all customers
It is important that gambling companies continue to play a responsible role in outlining the importance of safe and responsible gambling. This message now needs to be emphasized, with added tools that allow players to set limits and be aware of how much time and/or money they are spending at a particular site.
Step up interventions if customers increase time and spend beyond normal pre-crisis patterns
Data monitoring must be taken extremely seriously, especially now that players are likely to be self-isolating and may have more time to spend gambling. If a player is spending more time and money gambling than usual, then they must be informed.
Active promote deposit limits
Because of the coronavirus lockdown, many people will be experiencing a drop in their income, with some people losing all their income completely. Sites must promote the option to limit deposits so to prevent people from experiencing increased levels of financial hardship.
Action to ensure appropriate and responsible advertising including monitoring volume
Companies must review their current advertising strategies to make sure such strategies are not taking advantage of the current lockdown crisis. Increased levels of advertising, via either email, text or phone will not be tolerated.
Report all illegal rogue advertising from black market online operators
There will always be entities that seek to take advantage of the current crisis in order to drive up revenue, either legally or illegally. All such activity, if noticed, should be reported to the BGC and other governing bodies.
‘One strike and you’re out’ policy where affiliates breach pledges
Affiliates must adhere to these pledges as well. Promotions of products or new online casinos using the coronavirus directly, or indirectly by using such terms as ‘bored’, ‘isolated’ or ‘stay at home’ (and many others) will not be tolerated. A full list of keywords will eventually be collected and issued to prevent their misuse.
Signpost help to GAMCARE and the National Gambling Helpline and GamStop for self-exclusion
While it is acknowledged that the industry already provides an awareness and access to organisations tasked with providing services for online gamblers, it is important that during the lockdown crisis this awareness and access is increased, involving information at source on how to gamble responsibly, including self-exclusion.
Commitment to ensuring funding for Research, Education and Treatment (RET)
Organisations that are involved in the research, education and treatment of problem gambling and the effect of gambling as a whole are usually small concerns, with minimal funding. It is the responsibility of all those involved in this niche to ensure that funding is maintained during the coronavirus lockdown crisis.
Welfare checks and well-being help for staff
Employees of gambling companies are subject to the same emotional risks and challenges as employees at non-gambling companies. It is important that their welfare is taken care of, and that companies have mechanisms in place to ensure that they are.
Supporting the Government’s ‘National Effort’ with volunteers and facilities
The ‘National Effort’ involves the promotion of social distancing, the support of those who are vulnerable because of isolation, and the support of the NHS and its workers. It is important that companies involved with gambling promote these national efforts.
The chief executive of the BGC, Michael Dugher, said about these pledges: “In this time of national crisis, with so many people self-isolating and social distancing at home, it is vital that we do everything possible to ensure safer gambling and to protect potentially vulnerable or at-risk people. We all know that levels of gambling have plummeted, not just because of a betting shop or casino closures, but because of the absence of sport, which is also fundamental to online betting. Although gambling levels have dropped during the COVID crisis, our commitment to safer gambling is being stepped up. It is important that we help our customers stay safe and in control of their gambling during these difficult times. That’s why BGC members have developed a 10-pledge action plan that will help govern members throughout this crisis.
“Increasing safer gambling measures with more monitoring and customer interventions, stepping up safer gambling messages and measures like promoting deposit limits, together with a tough crackdown on affiliates and calling out rogue black-market operators, will make a big difference. We are also signposting professional help and are committed to funding Research, Education and Treatment (RET). The betting industry supports tens of thousands of jobs up and down the country, and we are equally determined to support the Government’s National Effort through helping with volunteers and facilities”.