People talk about fundamental changes needed to gambling regulation. This is to prevent gambling harm to individuals, families, communities, and society.
They say that gambling companies should be required to make sure consumers are not harmed by what they are selling. This is the case for other consumer goods and services. So, this responsibility should apply to gambling companies. Especially as gambling is addictive.
The behaviour of gambling companies encourages addiction. People with addiction are not able to make rational decisions in their own best interest. So, there need to be rules for gambling companies that protect and place limits on consumers.
Gambling companies will not do this on their own. It goes against them making money. Government needs to make sure that gambling companies do not exploit people.
People mention that the current gambling regulation from 2005 is outdated, and that big reform is needed to protect consumers.
The industry needs to step up and step up. You know, to take, like I’ve got to take responsibility for what I did, they have to take responsibility for what they did and how they’re behaving now. Lives have been lost because of their failures. Homes have been lost because of their failures. Families have been destroyed because of their failures, and they might say well, we did everything right then that’s their opinion. But I’m sure if you’re spending more than you can afford, if you’re borrowing to gamble, if you’re playing a product that is highly addictive 12 hours a day. They haven’t acted responsibly, you know. And I believe no other industry would get away with what they’ve done.
Like I said, my big, big thing is for betting companies to take their duty of care much, much more stringently than they ever have done before. All right, people get addicted, but the gambling, the betting industry doesn’t help anybody who’s getting deeper and deeper in. They’re not in some respects, they encourage it, and I’d love to see them stop doing that.
I mean, when you see these spokespeople come out and talk about responsible gambling week and these responsible gambling controls. I mean, in Responsible Gambling Week this week this year, Sky Bet sent a promotional email out to thousands of excluded gamblers, apparently in error. But you just think it’s not going to stop.
Intervene when people are not in control
People say they want to see action taken by gambling companies when consumers show signs that they are experiencing difficulties with their gambling. For example, changes in the amount of time and money that they are spending. Or patterns of gambling that show they are not in control.
They have described how there was little or no intervention by the gambling operators when this happened to them. Some have described how gambling companies only take action to restrict or close winning accounts. Or contact them to confirm their identity when they are making a withdrawal. But they do not do anything when they are depositing large amounts of money or gambling continuously.
Well, like I’ve just mentioned to you there earlier in regards to trying to withdraw money, this is an area probably where I could have gone down and investigated, but within my mental state, and obviously, though I was drained. I was not a well person after the places where I’ve been. Looking at the pattern of the cycles of people’s betting transactions, this needs to be alerted sooner. If this person’s betting 30, 40 times a day, and this where it can go to another authority for an authority to contact them and to say, “Are you in a good place? Is this affecting you?”
There’s also another thing that the operators need to do better is I could open an account with somebody, and I could deposit £500 day one, a £1000 pounds day two, £3000 day three, then get a winner on day three and request a withdrawal for £4000. Only at that point would they get in touch and say “Okay, we need to verify your account before you can process this withdrawal”. It’s like, why did you not care about that stuff when I was depositing? It’s like “you could be using a fake credit card to get the money back” and it’s like well you didn’t care when, would you have got in touch if I lost that other two grand or the other four grand?
Some say that more needs to be done to prevent gambling harm on the high street. Such as in bookmakers, casinos, or arcades. They want gambling companies to make sure that all customers are registered and to keep records of their play. This is the same as already happens online. Gambling companies should use this data to detect when people are in difficulty and to take action to stop the harm to them. Companies should also share data to protect people, as people could be gambling with many different sites or companies.
I think bookmakers potentially could go down the route of being members only, you’d have a key or whatever, you’d swipe it on the door and it’d let you in. Then anybody who is self-excluded would be denied. For me, that would be key.
They need to look at what they’re doing and the land-based stuff. Like I say, a lot of the times, if you have a membership card to these places and you scan it at a table or you put it in a machine obviously everything that you do is recorded. But I mean, I’m sure there’s ways of you looking up your statement or whatever it would be called. But I was never told about that. All you’re told about is “Oh, you could earn points” or whatever. And a lot of the times I didn’t even have a membership card. I just said, your name, you go in. And you know, they can be trained to be more responsible.
If you could press pause on the industry today, and start again tomorrow without knowing anything that’s gone on in the past, you would have single customer view. There was no two ways about that. You would say, “That makes sense if we all share the information.” If we look at things that you can change progressively like that, then it can only be positive, I think.
Check people can afford what they gamble
Many people say they want to see affordability checks put in place.
Gambling more money than you can afford is at the bottom of gambling harm. Gambling companies say to consumers that they should not gamble more than they can afford. Affordability checks would mean gambling companies have to check that people have the resources to afford their gambling without experiencing harm.
People want to see affordability checks in place regardless of an individuals’ income level. This is because people become addicted and spend all the money that they are able to access.
Some acknowledge that this may be seen as an ‘intrusion’. But people say that if you are applying for a loan or mortgage from a bank then you need to prove your income, and you should be required to provide proof for gambling in a similar way.
Everyone now who signs up to a casino or online, etc, should have to do an affordability check and a mental health awareness sort of check, “You need to provide us with the last three months of bank statements”, etc. That in itself could be a deterrent to someone to want to actually go and gamble, “Oh I don’t want to show you my bank statements”. “Well that’s policy, so you can’t come in”. So that in itself will be a deterrent, as long as it’s across the board. And anyone that’s in insolvency in any way, bankruptcies, things like that should be partnership working as well. You’ve declared bankruptcy, so you really shouldn’t be in the casino, you know.
I think the first thing they’ve got to do is an affordability check. I couldn’t afford to gamble, I mean, yes, I had savings, I was a woman of substance, you know, I was comfortable, I had a comfortable life. But really? I was probably only taking home about £1500 a month from my little business. And you know, as I say, I had some students so, to keep the house going, but that still wasn’t an affordable amount, you know, once you deal with everything. So, certainly, affordability check has got to be top of their agenda for change. And I know it’s an intrusion. People are private about their money. I was private about my money, how much I had, how much I was worth. It isn’t something you generally discuss.
I think there should be, I don’t know, affordability checks or something. Just something so they know you’re not spending ridiculously more than you can afford because if you want to take a loan out, they check that you can afford it but yet you can go and gamble a grand and a half in a week and no one bats an eyelid really. Or just the maximum deposit limit could be X amount a week for everybody regardless across everything.
Some want income levels verified before people can start gambling. Some want to see soft caps being used. This prevents people from being able to lose more than a certain amount a month before they have proved they can afford to. For example, someone could only lose £100 before being required to provide evidence that they could afford it.
Tough action against companies breaking the rules
People say there need to be tougher penalties for gambling companies when they break the rules. The kinds of penalties need to actually stop gambling companies from breaching regulations. The financial penalties that have been put on gambling companies so far seem not to make any difference to them.
Others say that more needs to be done to prevent illegal gambling companies which are unregulated. Often, these gambling companies will use marketing tactics saying that you can gamble on their site and bypass gambling blocking tools. This is extremely harmful for individuals who have stopped or are trying to stop gambling. If you gamble with them, they will never pay you out.
There’s also another slightly sinister arm to this, where there are non-UK, non-GamStop operators out there, which I get targeted by all the time. I get targeted emails. I was getting relentless text messages from some companies as well, saying we’re not GamStop, come and bet with us. There’s a whole unregulated market, which I don’t know what you do with that. That is pretty much a criminal operation, and you can guarantee if I put money into there, getting that money out with those people, if I was to win is almost impossible
Raise the minimum age to gambling
Some people want to see the minimum age to gamble raised. They feel that 18 is too young for people to be able to start gambling. This is because young people are not mature enough and this makes their risk of harm higher.
And I’d also consider, although it’s going to take a long time, I would raise the age to 21 not 18. I think 21 is more in line with a person’s development. I think we’ve already seen it with the lottery, where it’s gone from 16 to 18 because of the scratch cards situation, so although it would take time, I’d like to see 18 to 21 and that’s what I’d look at.