After a spike in online casino gambling during the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, GAMSTOP CEO advises vulnerable players to self-exclude.

GAMSTOP urges self-Exclusion during lockdown

The coronavirus pandemic has forced billions of people around the globe into lockdown in their homes. As a result, the number of people who are currently engaging in online casino gambling has risen.

This increase has led to Fiona Palmer, the CEO of GAMSTOP, to urge all vulnerable players to avoid temptation and self-exclude while the UK is locked down.

One of the triggers which forced the CEO of GAMSTOP to speak out, was the dramatic rise in the number of players who have tried to lift their self-exclusion before the time limit has expired.

GAMSTOP, which has been used by more than 130,000 gamblers, since launching in 2018, allows players to self-exclude from all UK-licenced gambling sites. Once a player registers, they can self-exclude for:

  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 5 years

Nearly 70% of the gamblers using this service opted for the maximum 5-year exclusion.

However, as boredom sets in during this unprecedented time, many self-excluded players are calling on GAMSTOP to allow them back in the casino. Several UK MPs have raised their own concerns, and the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has issued a call for a daily betting limit of £50 while lockdown measures are still in place.

Two operators suspended over GAMSTOP failures

The UK Gambling Commission announced in January 2020 that all UK licence holders had until the 31st of March to integrate GAMSTOP on their websites. As this deadline passed, two operators - Sportito and Dynamic (trading as BetProphet) - had failed to meet this requirement.

The UKGC acted swiftly and decisively in suspending them with immediate effect. The governing body said that it would conduct a ‘suitability’ review to ensure these brands meet the standards expected of UK licenced operators.

As a note, Sportito integrated GAMSTOP within hours of this ruling, and the UKGC lifted its suspension (although the operator will still be reviewed).

Gambling measures taken by other countries during the lockdown

Currently, the UK has only urged players to gamble responsibly, and no action has been executed related to the £50 a day gambling limit.

This is in stark contrast to Latvia. Last week, the country's president signed into law an emergency COVID-19 bill which banned all forms of gambling within the country. This includes land-based casinos, lotteries, betting shops, and online.

Another country to take action is Belgium. It has just introduced a weekly deposit limit of €500, and any operators found to breach this ruling will face severe sanctions.

Conclusion

Clearly, problem gamblers are a high-risk category while billions of people are isolated in their homes. Combine this with the fear of a recession to follow the pandemic, and it could be disastrous for those that don’t heed GAMSTOP’s advice.

However, actions speak louder than words. There is a strong argument to be made that the government should intervene and impose stricter rules during this crisis.

Another fear to consider players will simply search for an off-shore casino that will accept them. This route is fraught with its own dangers. The operator may not be licenced, security might not be up to European standards, and the games might not be fair either.

Certainly, swift action is needed to prevent problem gambling escalating out of control.

Last update: 18-04-2020
Regulations and Laws