UK iGaming Firms Under Fire For Targeting Problem Gamblers During Lockdown
The social distancing guidelines necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to widespread lockdowns in an effort to quell the spread of the coronavirus in the UK.
With captive market of gamblers stuck at home with few options to relieve their boredom, online operators are having a heyday and are running aggressive marketing campaigns.
UK online gaming operators are accused of irresponsible marketing tactics geared toward problem gamblers. Online gambling firms have been observed offering generous welcome bonuses of £1,000 or more across social media. Bookmakers have also been accused of inadequately checking for the use of stolen money in wagers they receive, according to a report filed by an ex-detective.
A number of addiction researchers, medical professionals, and MPs have alleged that iGaming firms are taking advantage of vulnerable gamblers via their advertising barrage. The UK’s leading mental health authority has condemned such tactics, calling them shameful.
With the suspension of many mainstream sports events leading to a dearth of betting action, many online bookmakers are looking toward the promotion of online casino games to recoup some of their losses.
Problem Gamblers Have Inadequate Protections Online
Online casinos tend to have higher rates of problem gamblers. According to a report issued in 2016 by the UK’s Gambling Commission (UKGC) almost 10% of online slots, casino, or bingo players are problem gamblers, four times the 2.5% rate observed among sports bettors.
Experts worry that gambling ads disseminated through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, enticing players with welcome bonuses and free spins, may lead to bigger problems in the long run.
According to NHS’ mental health director Claire Murdoch, such advertising tactics are explicitly targeting vulnerable populations when they are at their most vulnerable during a public health crisis. She said that this was a new low even for gambling firms!
Carolyn Harris, a Labour MP who serves as the chair for an all-party parliamentary group tasked with alleviating harms associated with gambling, has reported dozens of former gamblers who have abstained for years, are now being sent gambling advertisements intended to lure them to online casinos.
Alex Macey, a former detective and problem gambler who chairs the Gamvisory Group, an organization pushing for gambling transparency has accused gambling firms of failing to take the proper measures to ensure that customer wagers are not comprised of stolen money, or money they could not afford to lose. Macey, who lost £250,000 during his problem gambling days, argued that systematic failings are rife in bookmakers’ responsibilities to protect their customers.
The Betting and Gaming Council has promised to bolster their members’ responsible gaming policies, but have so far failed to provide any specifics!