Since the launch of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) ‘COVID action plan’, the industry’s unified trade body states that the number of safer gambling messages displayed on gambling sites ‘has more than doubled in just six months’.
The 10-pledge plan was initially unveiled at the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown in March and set out the new standards and conduct duties expected of BGC members during the pandemic.
BGC members agreed to voluntarily remove all TV and radio gaming advertising during the first wave of the pandemic, and have subsequently agreed that at least 20% of all TV and radio advertising should be safer gambling messages going forward.
Commenting on the findings, Michael Dugher, BGC chief executive said: “The Betting and Gaming Council was set up last year as a standards body committed to driving big changes across much of the regulated industry. These latest findings show that the BGC has led the way and is achieving real results on safer gambling.
“The introduction of the ten-pledge plan at the start of lockdown was further evidence of success – and our members re-affirmed their support for the pledges when the second lockdown began.”
The plan was introduced after concerns were raised over whether the closure of betting shops and casinos could lead to a rise in problem gambling online.
At the beginning of the second UK lockdown in November, BGC members reaffirmed their commitment to follow the COVID action plan.
Among the pledges was a commitment to increase the number of safer gambling messages, the active promotion of deposit limits and welfare checks for staff.
Data – which will be released by BGC chair Brigid Simmonds at the standards body’s AGM – has shown that the number of those messages has increased by more than 100% since the pledges were introduced.
Meanwhile, the number of individual customers receiving safer gambling messages via direct mail has increased by 150%, and the total number of direct mails which include a safer gambling message has jumped from 6 million to over 11 million a month – an increase of 89%.r cent.
In addition, the number of direct interventions by operators where a player has been spending more time or money betting than they did before the pandemic has also increased by 25%.
Further winter developments saw the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) praise the industry’s ‘proactive safeguards’ on online advertising, which had seen under-18 exposure to gambling adverts, reduced to single instances.
Dugher continued: “It shouldn’t be forgotten that around 30 million people in Britain place a bet at least once a year, whether that is on the National Lottery, in betting shops, casinos or at the bingo, and the overwhelming majority do so without any problems.
“But although the Gambling Commission has found no evidence of an increase in problem gambling during lockdown, and the Government says rates of problem gambling are around 0.7 per cent and stable, we can and must do more to tackle it and protect vulnerable and at risk customers.
“That is why we are looking forward to the Government beginning its Gambling Review so we can further improve standards, whilst ensuring that customers are not driven into the arms of the offshore illegal black market where there are no standards or safeguards”.