UK Politicians call for Gambling Cap during Covid 19 Crisis
by Glenn Baird - March 23, 2020
Politicians in the UK have urged online bookmakers to set a limit of £50 per day on the amount that anyone can spend gambling online during the Covid 19 crisis.
There are concerns that at risk gamblers who are stuck at home could be at greater risk than they were before and such measures would go some way to protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
A specific concern, raised by the Guardian newspaper is that with an absence of any sports betting at all, punters have started to move towards virtual betting, esports and casino games.
The paper has published some of the content from a leaked William Hill email that was only intended for staff. A message from that email is: “talk to your customers about what other things they can bet on – table tennis and Japanese baseball are proving very popular”.
The obvious concern with betting on unfamiliar sports would that those placing bets are likely to be taking even more of a punt than normal, likely knowing nothing about the sport and almost certainly knowing nothing about the real or virtual athletes taking part. This sort of ill-informed gambling is not healthy and should be discouraged, not promoted by all bookmakers and casinos.
The paper goes on to highlight that the bookmakers have also tweeted from its US Twitter account, offering “international soccer action”, which the broadsheet claims means betting on the Belarusian league.
Some other big names in the UK market are then highlighted as advertising casino games and virtual sports betting.
It was even reported that FIFA tournament, which was organised by a player in Spain was added to the William Hill betting options, in what would appear to be a desperate attempt to keep punters engaged.
MPs Call for Betting Curb
MPs from various political parties in the UK have asked for companies not put own financial concerns ahead of the health and well-being of their customers.
Labour’s Carolyn Harris, the Conservatives’ Iain Duncan Smith and the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan have written to betting firms stating that: “We are deeply concerned that as we go deeper into this crisis, more and more people will turn to online gambling as a distraction.”
“If the industry were to self-impose a daily limit of £50 … it would be a clear demonstration that the industry is willing to act responsibly and do what they can to protect society and peoples’ finances, at this dreadful time.”
They have also asked for blocks on the number of accounts that customers can open and for firms to move quickly when they spot the signs of problem gambling.
Matt Gaskell, clinical lead for the NHS northern gambling clinics, said: “In our clinics some of the most harmful gambling is that which diversifies to betting on things our patients know nothing about.
“The industry continues to do all it can to increase profits, keep gamblers immersed and in continual play, at the expense of people’s lives.”
Caroline Harris added: “If they’re targeting someone to bet on this kind of sport, or computer-generated events, it can only be because that person is someone with a problem, to be gambling on something that obscure.
“It’s the industry trying to capitalise on a national disaster, encouraging problem gambling with reckless and foolhardy behaviour.”
With Co-Chair of the group, Iain Duncan Smith weighing in: “It’s pretty appalling that in the midst of all this difficulty and suffering, gambling companies are so desperate to ensure that those who gamble can continue to throw their money away that they direct them to all sorts of little-known and little-watched sports.”
A number of bookmakers have been criticised for not introducing social distancing measures earlier, with the Prime Minister also facing tough questioning over his decision not to enforce closures earlier than he has.
One anonymous Betfred employee has was told that they would receive hand sanitiser but that it would not arrive straight away:
“There were no gloves or nothing like that and we had to clean the shops and clear away the pens people use to write down bets.
“I was sitting in there and it was all older people coming in the shop, over-70s staying in there for ages, and it just seemed crazy.
“Staff were worried because they have nans and granddads and there are sick people in their families. It just feels like a breeding ground for it.”
William Hill have donated any money spent on FIFA tournaments to charity and claim that they are now taking “extra sensitive” measures to ensure the safety of their customers.
The other bookmakers mentioned have yet to make a formal reply to the paper.