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UKGC Believes Problem Gambling Stats Need Addressed

by Glenn Baird - November 18, 2020

Neil McArthur, UK Gambling Commission chief executive stated today in a speech that every business within the industry will need to play their part in battle against problem gambling.

In an event that signalled the beginning of Safer Gambling Week in the UK, MacArthur highlighted data that suggests 0.5% of the UK population can be classed as problem gamblers, with 1% of all gamblers and 6% of “engaged” gamblers also falling into that bracket.

He asked that all operators understand that those numbers mean their own customer base is very likely to include problem gamblers.

“You may be thinking to yourself, ‘those numbers do not apply to my business.’ But are you sure and how do you know?” he asked. “How likely is it that people experiencing or at risk of gambling related harm are only playing with your competitors?”

“You might say ‘We have a risk committee that takes this really seriously’. And I know that’s the case and tone from the top is important. But how confident are you really that your company is doing everything it possibly can to drive down the number of customers you have who are experiencing or at risk of gambling related harm?”

He spoke about the implementation of a single customer view, which would allow operators to witness the betting activities of all customers, something he believed could be implemented following meeting with some of the industry’s key operators.

“While it has not yet reached a conclusion, we have made progress on the single customer view project and we are determined to push that work through to a conclusion because it would be an absolute game changer in terms of customer protection,” McArthur said.

“We need to find a solution, because if we crack the ability to safely and securely share data between operators for the purposes of affordability checks and customer safety that could be a real game changer.”

He went on to speak about previous initiatives, including changes to VIP schemes, advertising and the removal of certain in-game features, such as buy-now options. He pointed out the good work that he believes the Commission has carried out so far as a sign of what is to come in the months and years ahead.

“Many people were sceptical,” he said. “Some others were openly critical of the Commission for embarking on this experiment. I was even accused of letting operators regulate themselves, which was never the case.

“But whichever way you look at it, it was a novel and slightly risky thing for a regulator to do and I was asked a lot of questions about it. When asked, I said that I was prepared to work with anyone who shared the Commission’s desire to make gambling safer, which is what we have been doing and what we will continue to do.

“So was it worth the risk? I think the short answer is yes. Despite the criticism and the scepticism, working together has allowed us to make that quicker progress.”

VIP schemes were banned for anyone under the age of 25 and video slots were given a minimum spin speed of 2.5 seconds per spin, meaning wagers cannot be placed any more quickly in the UK.

He finished off by mentioning what most people would have been listening out for. The forthcoming review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

“I want to make it crystal clear that we will not be taking our foot off the accelerator whilst the review takes place,” McArthur said. “We are making progress in lots of areas and we must continue to work together to make gambling safer.

“Where we see an opportunity to raise standards for customers, we intend to take it, adopting – as we always have – a precautionary approach where appropriate. And we will not accept the Review of the Act as a reason for any operators to slow down either. None of you should get distracted from the task in hand.”

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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland sits to the north-west of mainland Europe. The United Kingdom shares a border with The Republic of Ireland and has coasts on the Atlantic Ocean, Celtic Sea, North Sea, Irish Sea and English Channel. The population of the UK is approaching the 67.6 million mark leading to a fairly densely populated land mass. The gambling sector in the United Kingdom is entirely regulated and licensed by the UKGC – the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. Should players resident In the UK wish to gamble with foreign based operators there is no history of this being treated as a criminal offence, but high levels of protection exist for UK residents playing with UK licensed operators.