GamStop, a national online self-exclusion initiative, has responded to media reports that had revealed problem gamblers have been able to bypass exclusionary measures put in place to prevent gambling activity.
Following the broadcast of the BBC ‘Five Live Investigates’ programme over the weekend, it was revealed that problem gamblers registered as part of the self-exclusion scheme were able to alter minor details, such as surnames, provided during the registration process.
The reports have caused industry-wide embarrassment, and have raised questions into whether the gambling industry can effectively become a self-regulatory body.
GamStop addressed the shaky start to the year by responding to the issues raised in the BBC report, commenting:“This is of concern to GamStop and we welcome the work that the Gambling Commission is currently undertaking, especially in regard to ensuring that robust verification is carried out by operators when initial registration takes place.
“With this in place, the specific issue identified in the BBC investigation aired on 13/01/2019 would be addressed.”
Since its creation in April 2018, the initiative set out to offer support for national problem gambling stakeholders, by developing a referral system, directing individuals to GamCare and the UK National Debtline.
The scheme provides those at risk of gambling-related harm the option to block themselves from engaging with all licensed UK online gambling operators for periods of 6 months up to 1-or-5 years.
GamStop’s Fiona Palmer admitted that the initiative, while being a good start for the industry, does not work well enough: “GamStop is working hard to improve its level of service in order to ensure that registered consumers remain confident that they are effectively excluded from those operators currently integrated with the scheme.
“Since the UK does not have a national ID scheme, matching consumers is reliant on the information they provide to GamStop and also the quality of information held by each operator. Operators have varied methods of verification and differ vastly in size and scope.
“This makes GamStop an extremely complex technology project. We are working closely with operators to understand this further and will continue to do so following the Gambling Commission’s work on verification. The recent “consumer account function” available on the GamStop website will make it easier for people to update their details thereby maximising their protection.”
The exclusionary scheme has received support from industry charity GambleAware, as CEO Marc Etches emphasised that such schemes are fundamental in supporting those faced with compulsive behaviours.
In a statement made to SBC, he stated: “Self-exclusion can be a last resort for people who are struggling with their gambling, which is why it is essential tools such as GamStop operate effectively.
“Such tools work best as part of a treatment package tailored to the individual rather than being effective in isolation. If you’re worried about your or a loved ones gambling, there is free help and advice available online at BeGambleAware.org”
GamStop has since reaffirmed its plans to continue developing and improving its service in conjunction with the Gambling Commission and British Licensed Operators in light of the BBC reports.