Tag Archive : Gambling

Gambling Commission appoints four senior commissioners

The Gambling Commission has announced the appointment of four commissioners to start effective immediately.

Terry Babbs, Brian Bannister, Jo Hill and Sir Martin Narey will take up their positions on the Gambling Commission’s Board of Commissioners, after being appointed by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden.

Each will be in the role for five years from 30 April 2020.

Babbs joins alongside his roles as the senior independent director at the General Dental Council, vice char of the Investment Committee of Oxfam’s Enterprise Development Programme, and non-executive director of HMRC’s Valuation Office Agency.

Bannister, a former PwC UK Director of Public Affairs, is also currently the executive director for strategic insight and influence at the England and Wales Law Society.

Executive director of strategy and risk at The Pensions Regulator, Jo Hill has also held senior roles in the banking and insurance sectors. Government adviser on children’s social care, Narey has previously been director general of the England and Wales Prison Service.

Gambling Commission Chairman, Bill Moyes said: “Their collective experience will help us as we look to implement further protections for consumers and strongly regulate what is a fast-moving and innovative industry.

“I’d like to welcome them to the Commission and look forward to working closely with them.”

Danish Watchdog Penalizes 16 Illegal Gambling Websites

The Danish Gambling Authority, Spillemyndigheden, has blocked access to 16 gambling websites operating illegally on the territory of Denmark, the regulator announced on Wednesday.

The agency sought a district court permission to block the unauthorized gambling operations this past February. It was given the green light to proceed with the planned blocking a month later.

The regulator informed the public on Wednesday that it has carried out the task successfully in collaboration with Danish Internet service providers.

Denmark reorganized its gambling market in 2012 when it adopted a legal framework authorizing the Danish Gambling Authority to issue licenses to online gaming and sports betting operators interested to provide their services in a regulated environment.

After the reorganization of the local market, the regulator has also been monitoring the space for unauthorized operations and has uncovered multiple unlicensed activities being conducted on the territory of Denmark.

Including the latest 16 websites, the Gambling Authority has brought successful actions before the district court for a total of 90 illegal online gambling operations.

According to information posted on the regulator’s official website earlier this week, the latest 16 penalized operations included seven online casino websites, seven skin betting websites, and two sports betting websites.

Skin betting constitutes gambling with virtual items from video games under Denmark’s gambling law.

Clamping Down on Unauthorized Gambling

Commenting on their latest action against illegal gambling operations, Spillemyndigheden Director Morten Niels Jakobsen said that they “work to protect players against illegal gambling” and that they also need to make sure that locally licensed operators “can run their businesses under orderly conditions.”

The gambling regulator went on to say that this is the reason why it is “very important for us to clamp down on gambling offered without a license.”

It is part of the Danish Gambling Authority’s responsibilities to monitor the local market by conducting regular searches for potentially illegal operations targeting Danish players. The regulator does this in collaboration with the Danish Tax Agency.

When Spillemyndigheden uncovers websites that offer illegal gambling or “illegal mediation of gambling”, it sends a petition to the owners of the websites, notifying them that they are violating the country’s gambling laws and that they should shut their operations for Danish customers.

If the websites continue to service Danish gamblers after receiving the petition, the Danish Gambling Authority can have them blocked by local Internet service providers after receiving district court permission.

As mentioned above, 90 websites have been blocked after the regulator had interfered since the reorganization of Denmark’s online gambling space in 2012. The Gambling Authority has uncovered more unauthorized operations but most of them have ceased targeting Danish customers after receiving a petition, the regulatory body says.

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Are Scandinavian markets becoming ‘guinea pigs’ for stricter gambling regulation?

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting industries worldwide, without even mentioning its effect on human life in general, the gambling industry was always bound to suffer to some degree.

Land-based casinos have fallen victim to property closures and sports betting has been stripped of its essence through the postponement and cancellation of major sport.

As has been explored in depth by Gambling Insider, other verticals have thrived, including online casino, virtuals, poker and esports. But, for the sector as a whole, it is as tough a time as it has seen.

With social distancing and isolation measures also in place globally, there is increased scrutiny on problem gambling and an increase in online gaming.

While the industry has been quick to point out data has not shown as “drastic” a change in player behaviour as expected, external outlets have reported on operators ‘luring problem gamblers back in,’ as well as picking up on rogue operators offering COVID-19 related markets.

As Gambling Insider warned earlier this month, elevated scrutiny always seemed inevitable during this pandemic. Anti-gambling media outlets have relied less on evidence and data in recent years but, in their defence, the industry was always likely to come out and play down any rise in problem gambling.

Whatever the real numbers are, the most important result is the end outcome in terms of player protection and regulation. But the two are not mutually exclusive.

As Betsson Group CEO Jesper Svensson told Gambling Insider this week, referencing advertising regulation in Spain and the suspension of licenses in Latvia, restrictive regulations can become “contradictive” to player protection.

He said: “What you risk doing as a regulator is pushing players to play outside the regulated market. That can severely impact the channelisation in those jurisdictions, because players will not stop to play, they will just find other places to play.

“I think it’s good when you can work closely with regulators and have a good dialogue about what are the right measurements to do at a time like this; to protect not just the consumers but the regulations in themselves.”

While the industry urges caution, uttering that ever-more important phrase “evidence-based,” those opposed to the very nature of gambling assume all operators are exploiting homebound players and want governments and regulators to step in.

In Scandinavia, they have – and rather swiftly. First, the Swedish Government set a weekly deposit limit of SEK 5,000 ($500) and a SEK 100 cap on bonus offers during the COVID-19 crisis.

In the words of Svenska Spel president and CEO Patrik Hofbauer, “It is difficult to interpret the proposals as anything other than a substantial underestimation of the gaming industry’s ability to present powerful measures themselves.”

This week, however, Finland’s Interior Ministry took things a step further, capping online game loss limits at €500 ($542.24) per month, down from the previous cap of €2,000.

It must be stressed the Finnish market operates with a state-owned monopoly, making this a different case study to the norm; though these actions are still an obvious sign Finnish politicians share a similar outlook to those in Sweden.

Those calling for tighter gambling regulation across the world will feel vindicated and, in many ways, these Scandinavian markets are the ‘guinea pigs’ for a strict gambling regulation model, with no disrespect intended.

The Malta Gaming Authority, by contrast, recently spoke of assessing real data before making any such proposals during the coronavirus pandemic. In the UK, it’s also worth pointing out the actions of the Betting and Gaming Council, which has imposed a voluntary TV and radio advertising ban. These kind of actions can perhaps help hold off potentially similar regulation.

But, clearly, Finland and Sweden disagree.

Will the sanctions imposed by these markets genuinely protect players and reduce problem gambling? Are they genuinely needed or are the responsible gaming actions of the industry to date simply being ignored? Thanks to the experimental approach of regulators, we are in the process of finding out.

Those inside the industry will rightly discuss the risk of black-market activity. But those outside the industry, just like those I have conversed with outside work recently, will believe the right thing is being done to curb problem gambling.

With channelisation of the market already down in Sweden, early results are not encouraging. Yet, either way, Scandinavian gambling markets will give us a true glimpse of how a far stricter-regulated gambling industry would look in the future.

Personally, I feel €500 a month is a more than fair limit, which encourages mass marketing rather than a cash-cow approach towards high-value players. But, crucially, that is a subjective opinion not based on data and formed purely on my personal circumstances, not taking into account the earnings of higher-income players. That’s exactly where arbitrary limits fall short.

My opinion, though, is one that brings us straight to the issue of affordability, one UK commentators are already highly aware of. That, however, is a different conversation altogether – one I’ll leave for another day for fear of opening up another can of regulatory worms.

Problem gambling has not increased as we were expecting during pandemic

Yanica Saint, head of EU affairs & policy, Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) says the data the regulator has received does not show as “drastic” a change in player behaviour as was expected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking as part of a safer gambling panel during the SBC Digital Summit, Saint said the MGA is looking to implement an evidence-based approach to regulation and is still analysing current online gaming data.

What Saint has seen so far, however, matches what operators have been telling the MGA and the messages they were also expressing during the panel.

She said: “The MGA is also attempting an evidence-based approach, like the UK. We are still analysing the data we’ve received. The data does tally with what operators are saying. What we were expecting was a much more drastic change in player behaviour than has actually happened.

“Some operators did attempt to exploit the situation via marketing but the majority of regulated operators have been very responsible. Some operators are quite good on this front.

“The law requires operators to market their product in a socially responsible way. That was always the law. What we’ve done during the pandemic is merely issue a note on this emphasising any mention of COVID-19 would be in breach of these regulations.”

Panel moderator Andy Danson, partner, Bird & Bird, also emphasised what could be perceived as an exaggerated reporting of increases in gambling – and thereby problem gambling – from external news outlets.

Echoing the thoughts of the panellists, he said: “There have been less changes in player behaviour than has been reported outside the industry; certainly not the drastic changes that have been suggested.”

UK gambling consultant predicts 50% drop in betting shops post-COVID

Gambling consultant Steve Donoughue believes UK retail sports betting will see a lasting impact after the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

Speaking with Gambling Insider for the May/June edition of its magazine, Donoughue explained that while all changes in betting behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic had the potential to be permanent, the shift away from customers physically visiting betting shops could have a lasting impact for retail-reliant operators.

He said: “Land-based is going to suffer as people will switch to online and may never return.

“Land-based depends on people making a visit to their venue as part of their regular schedule. Once that stops being regular, things will change.”

When asked if retail sports betting had the potential to recover post-COVID, Donoughue said he thinks this is doubtful.

He explained: “I can’t see it going back to the way it was. There will always be a market for retail sports betting. But will it be one that is sufficient for the number of shops we have now? I doubt it.

“I predict a 50% drop over the next few years.”

Despite this outlook, Donoughue had some inspirational advice for sports betting operators in the UK.

“Keep your nerve,” Donoughue urged. “We will get through this. Sport will return.

“Be innovative but don’t be greedy or desperate as the Government is waiting to pounce.”

The full feature will appear in the May/Jun edition of Gambling Insider magazine. Click here to read when available. 

Sweden ready to enforce strict gambling rules

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Sweden’s government proposed a set of temporary rules that will restrict gambling activities. Social security minister Ardalan Shekarabi proposed to limit the exposure of online gambling, stating that online casinos are “one of the most risky forms of gambling”, especially since many sporting events and other gambling-related activities have been shut down.

Restrictions include a limit to a weekly gambling deposit, with a maximum of SEK 5,000 ($500). The same sum is also the loss limit when using vending machines. Players will also have to set time limits on their online casino activities. Additionally, there will be a SEK 100 cap on bonus offers.

The Spelinspektionen gambling regulator will also have new assignments, such as providing the government on monthly reports relayed to the market or suggesting measures to strengthen consumer protection. Spelinspektionen general director Camilla Rosenberg stated the organization now has “an even clearer focus on gaming responsibility and the fight against illegal gambling.”

Svenska Spel’s president and CEO Patrik Hofbauer expressed a different opinion, saying “It is difficult to interpret the proposals as anything other than a substantial underestimation of the gaming industry’s ability to present powerful measures themselves. At the same time, we are surprised at what we think is missing about consumer protection.”

The proposal will be up for discussion until May 7, but the minister hopes it’ll go into effect on June 1 and last until the end of 2020.

Number of Gambling Addicts Seeking Help Rises in Ireland

More than 230 people suffering from gambling addiction sought help in the Republic of Ireland last year, figures from the country’s National Drug Treatment Reporting System show.

The reported figure represents a 7% increase on the 217 gambling addicts who were assessed or treated in 2018, it has also emerged.

Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) said that the National Drug Treatment Reporting System’s recently published data is not likely to be capturing the actual image when it comes to the number of people who are treated for gambling problems and addiction in the country throughout the year.

Commenting on the latest figures, Brendan Kelly, a psychiatry professor in Trinity College Dublin said that these are just the tip of the iceberg and that addiction to gambling is actually far more common than is imagined.”

Professor Kelly elaborated further that the spread of gambling addiction among Ireland’s residents is difficult to measure because there are people who gamble at betting shops and others who buy vast numbers of lottery tickets, “but also there is online gambling, which is very concerning, and gambling by telephone in different age groups.”

This makes it difficult to provide accurate and explicit data on how many people exactly are suffering from problem gambling behavior or gambling addiction.

Calls for Gambling Surveillance Report

Louise O’Reilly, the health spokesperson of Irish republican party Sinn Féin, called for a gambling surveillance report to be conducted so that lawmakers and the society get a better picture of the current situation relating to gambling addiction and problem gambling.

Ms. O’Reilly said that the Department of Health needs to take an accurate picture “because it’s not just an issue around severe gambling addictions, it’s actually around problem gambling.”

According to stats from the National Drug Treatment Reporting System, 93% of all people treated or assessed for problems stemming from excessive gambling between 2015 and 2018 were male.

The Republic of Ireland has long been criticized for lagging behind the United Kingdom and fellow EU members in reorganizing its gambling market and updating its antique gambling laws.

The last time Ireland amended its gambling rules and regulations was back in 1956. However, that was long before the advent of the Internet, and the country’s current gambling law does not really cover digital gambling and other modern-time gambling activities.

Ireland faced particularly heavy criticism earlier this year when the UK Gambling Commission announced that it would implement a ban on credit card gambling. The ban took force in mid-April in the UK and Northern Ireland.

Irish problem gambling organizations called for similar prohibition to be introduced in the country. Barry Grant, the founder of Problem Gambling Ireland, an independent advice service helping people with gambling-related problems, said earlier this year that maxing out credit cards and sinking into debt is among the most common themes among people who seek help from his organization.

Source: Over 230 sought help for gambling addictions last year

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Tranmere Rovers sets up problem gambling initiative with Gamban

Tranmere Rovers, its Chairman Mark Palios and its Captain Scott Davies have formed a partnership with The Big Step, Gamban and the NHS to help those impacted by problem gambling.

Emphasising the increased urge for problem gamblers to wager during isolation, the English League Two Football Club is aiming to help those affected by addiction.

However, the club’s announcement came with a headline containing the phrase “combat gambling threat,” seeming to paint all gambling with the same brush.

Tranmere Chairman Mark Palios: “When gambling gets out of hand it is like a virus itself and has huge consequences for individuals and families, undermining the relationships and destroying the trust that underpins everything.

“With the boredom and isolation that results from the  lockdown, it has never been more important to help those affected or at risk and we felt the time to act was now.

“The project with The Big Step is not just a short-term fix, but will evolve into a longer-term initiative too.”

UK gambling industry should brace for a new media storm

As the coronavirus outbreak gripped the globe, the UK media unsurprisingly found less time to cover the gambling industry, focusing instead on the quickly unfolding pandemic.

At the same time, the positive influence of the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) since its formation in November has reduced unnecessary media criticism.

As you can read about in the May/June edition of Gambling Insider magazine, the BGC has already got to work swatting baseless accusations from mainstream outlets; it has also lobbied very effectively to persuade the UK Government to reverse a recent decision and provide gambling firms with COVID-19-related aid. Its Virtual Grand National endeavour even drew widespread praise from publications across the UK.

But the slowdown in ‘bookie bashing’ has naturally had more to do with the greater dedication of resources towards reporting the coronavirus pandemic.

And rightly so – except for the fact the pandemic is now less of a ‘new’ phenomenon, which has slowly seen an anti-gambling agenda creep back into the national spotlight, as media outlets begin to dedicate more attention to the normalised, everyday aspects of life in lockdown.

A key example was recent coverage in the Daily Mirror newspaper, of several gambling companies in Singapore offering markets on the daily coronavirus death count.

The headline ‘Punters can bet on daily coronavirus cases on sick illegal gambling websites’ was a wholly accurate one. You can indeed place these bets and offering such abhorrent markets is indeed ‘sick.’

Here, the Daily Mirror did nothing wrong and simply reported the facts. It, of course, failed to mention licensed sites in the UK are in a completely different realm of gambling, in that their licenses would likely be removed immediately upon offering of such markets, though it is not obliged to do so.

But, when it comes to public perception, a betting website is a betting website – whether licensed or unlicensed. That’s why a pandemic like this is always likely to lead to outliers and bad actors letting the regulated sector down – lowering the wider industry’s reputation even further.

Ominously following that story, though, was a request from the Guardian newspaper. The Guardian community team’s post on Thursday asked the public to describe how life in lockdown is affecting their gambling.

Again, the Guardian has done nothing wrong here. This is, of course, a story in the public interest, with problem gamblers understood to be at increased risk when in isolation and social distancing.

Given the Guardian’s history, however, you can see exactly what the publication is doing. As well as giving a voice to people who genuinely suffer from addiction, there will now be the opportunity for a frustrated player with no problem gambling tendencies at all to simply lambast their bookmaker for allowing them to lose a little more than they wanted to.

Instead of seeking out news, the Guardian has quite literally invited gambling critics to do the news hunting for the newspaper. If the majority of players email in and say they actually gamble the same or less, will it make the headlines on the websites of national outlets?

And yet if just one person says they have gambled more during lockdown, you can just imagine the stories written off the back of it. Especially when empirical evidence is all but ignored and all data, outdated or not, is blown out of proportion by the nationals on a regular basis.

Operators should therefore be prepared for a fresh wave of media scrutiny. While those in the industry can separate licensed actors from unlicensed rogues, a key distinction is the public will not.

Regulated gambling companies licensed in Malta, Gibraltar, the UK or elsewhere versus those operating offshore all fall under the same umbrella for the millions sitting at home. So if betting sites in Singapore offer immoral markets on the COVID-19 death count, compliant companies on the other side of the world will feel the heat for their actions.

There is even some continental momentum when it comes to curbing regulated operators, with poker bonuses recently being outlawed in France, while Spain has implemented heavy gambling advertising restrictions.

Meanwhile, if a casual UK player is unhappy about losing a single online wager in the last few weeks, instead of just their Twitter followers, national newspapers are now rubbing their hands together waiting to hear all about it.

It might be time once more for the gambling industry to brace itself, with another media storm potentially just around the corner.

Online gambling to decrease during lockdown, according to EGBA

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has claimed national lockdowns brought about by the coronavirus outbreak will lead to less online gambling and not more.

It is widely acknowledged in the industry online gaming will see a spike in player activity, as a result of people being at home.

However, the EGBA disputes this, suggesting this school of thought is “unfounded,” pointing to government statistics in Belgium, which say traffic to licensed gambling websites has decreased by 38% from pre-coronavirus levels.

The blog, authored by Secretary General, Maarten Haijer, added sports betting makes up nearly half of Europe’s online gambling activity, suggesting the cancellation of sports events has led to a drop in bookmakers’ website traffic and revenues.

Haijer added: “This is contrary to what many predicted and disproves the concerns about dramatic increases in online gambling, which have underpinned the recent introduction of severe advertising restrictions in some European countries.”

The EGBA also reinforced to operators the need to step up their safer gambling efforts during this difficult period, ensuring they act responsibly, while being mindful of their social responsibilities.

Haijer said: “That’s why online gambling companies should ensure responsible gambling tools are widely available to their customers and these tools are visible, accessible and easy-to-use.”