AO Change

Responsibilities for gambling companies

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People mention that the current gambling regulation from 2005 is outdated, and that big reform is needed to protect consumers.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.

I don’t want to get all political about it but the amount of lobbying, the amount of money they throw, the freebies, the hospitality all the MPs get out of like the gambling industry. So, I think it spends the most or the second most, I think I read, and it’s hard to see how things are going to change. They don’t take it very seriously. But the regulations have got to change because they come in in 2005, the world is very different then. I mean, even then I went on to have problems, even back then. That was before smartphones and everything. And now, you’re walking round with a casino in your pocket and the laws are still the same as they were before smartphones even come out and something needs to be 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.

I think that operators need to talk with lived experience more. They need to understand that although they’ve got to make a profit, and I take that on board, there’s not a problem with making a profit, there’s a way of making a profit. There’s a way of making it a sustainable business, not exploiting people. And I feel that personally I was exploited because people could have said “whoa, whoa, whoa”. You know, the way I compare this is if you go into a pub, if I walked into a pub and they didn’t know me and I ordered a pint of bitter and drank it, they’d serve me another one. If I drank the next one, they’d serve me another one. But at a certain point, and let’s say six pints, maybe the landlord or the bar lady would just have a little, just keep their eye on me just to make sure. And then all of a sudden, if I start saying and doing silly things, they wouldn’t – they usually don’t serve you again. Yet, if I lose 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 with a certain bookmaker, they make it 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and all the way up to 41. They never stopped me. It only stopped because I ran out of money. So, the point I’m making is why didn’t they intervene with me?


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.

For me, the most important thing is affordability checks. There has to be affordability checks when people gamble online. I think somebody who sets up an online account, they should have their photo given to the regulator, they should have proof of income and you shouldn’t be allowed to spend any more than 20% of your yearly income. That’s my personal opinion, 20% for somebody who would gamble every day. Yes, I was thinking, I think it’s quite reasonable 20%. Some people will say as low as 5% of the income should be taken, but certainly, affordability checks is the most important thing that these regulators have to be made accountable for. Because had they done an affordability check on me in 2011, I was on benefits, but I spent over £100,000 in four months. Would I have been allowed to spend all that in four months? Probably not.


Then just other things like soft caps to proof of funds and stuff like that. People have got different opinions, but this is just my opinion. Maybe just £100 a month because everybody’s got the right to… I don’t want gambling…. The phrase prohibition is thrown around so often, I’m sure you’ve heard it several times. Certain people call people like me a prohibition-stan. Absolutely not prohibition. I don’t want gambling to be banned just because I’ve not been able to do it in moderation, recreationally or whatever you want to call it without harm doesn’t mean that somebody else shouldn’t be able to. Anybody that wants to have the odd flutter should be able to do that. But I don’t want them to stop that enjoyment just because I’ve not been able to but what I do want is the exploitation of that, things like when I had that relapse and Virgin happily let me put thousands and thousands of pounds on my credit card. I know that side of things has been tackled already, but at the time it wasn’t, and I was allowed to do it. There would still be nothing to stop me doing that now with a debit card. You know, I’ve got an overdraft facility of five thousand pounds on my bank account. I’m not in it, but if I wanted to, I could open a Virgin account in the same way that I did before using a debit card. And I could do £5000 of not my money, it’s the banks money the overdraft. So, I’d like to see some sort of soft cap in the way that you can’t apply for a loan without proof of funds. You can’t get a mortgage without proof of funds. If you’ve got the proof of funds, and honestly in my opinion I don’t see what the problem is. You’re just going here you go, this is my income. This is I can therefore afford it. Because I think sometimes people can be a little bit selfish because they almost see that from themselves and they go well if I want to spend that, then I should be able to but what about those people who are more vulnerable, such as me? You know, that would struggle to stay within a budget and then would go over like I did, like so many other people that have had this gambling addiction as an issue through their lives.


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.

The other year Caesars Entertainment were fined about eight million, which was quite a big win at the time. They just recorded 247 million in the last quarter. And, you know, it’s like fining Cristiano Ronaldo £20 for dropping a piece of chewing gum on the floor. Make it half a million and you’ll think about it. So, the fine has to be or say you can’t play football. You see, in horse racing when a jockey commits an offense they get a suspension. They can’t ride for seven days or a fortnight or longer, you see. And that makes them think twice about bumping into another horse or something like that. It might sound draconian, but if it’s a third offense. Then, you know, you’ve got plenty of warning. Fair warning. And boy oh boy if it ever happened to one big operator and let’s just say Paddy Power, let’s spread it about a bit. Paddy Power couldn’t operate for the whole of March when the Cheltenham Festival is on and all the football’s on and everything. There would be a lot of these gambling, responsible gambling teams getting together, saying we’re doing that, you know, we’re doing that, we’re doing that, we have the Gambling Commission watching us. Well, we don’t know because we’re not telling you. The Gambling Commission need a bit of balls as well to be able to get in there and say right, we’ve fined you, we fined you, we’ve fined you. No? We’re taking your license away now, guys.


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.

The later, the better I do think, I think. Jesus, at 21, nearly 22 I was a father, so you should have thought that I was responsible. But no, I don’t think 21 is old enough. I think if people are 25 they can make better decisions. If it’s not in your face as well, if you if you do that as well as advertising, then you know you’re not curious about it. You don’t want to know more about, you don’t want to think oh my God, I got £50 free bet here, that’s free money. Oh, Harry Kane to score any time like £10, I win 60. That’s going to happen. Like you know, if you combine the two, I think it would – I do think it would reduce harm. I really do. There are people that got into gambling later in their lives where it grabbed them and destroyed them in years, you know, in such a short period of time. And that does happen, but I do think that more start younger, more it’s embedded in culture and society that they’re around and that has a big part to play as well.


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.

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