Online gambling has taken huge strides in the UK with new betting sites springing up by the day. 2020 saw particularly dramatic growth in gambling activities due to the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The need for entertainment grew as people spent more time indoors. Various sectors have expressed concerns about increasing betting practices. Members of parliament, the European Gaming and Betting Association and other stakeholders have expressed the need to institute stricter gambling measures to protect consumers. As the country returns to coronavirus lockdown protocols in 2021, the worry is that problem gambling could be an issue for many punters.
The Need for Safer Betting
Different regulatory bodies are calling for operators to promote responsible gambling. As the UK and other regions go back into lockdown amid increasing cases of coronavirus infections, there are concerns that gamblers could fall victim to addictive behaviour. Spending prolonged periods indoors gives punters more opportunities to gamble on their favourite sports. Online bookmakers have made gambling accessible just about anywhere. Therefore, the argument is that bettors can log into sportsbooks at any time, which makes it hard to keep gambling practices in check. However, the EGBA does not agree that lockdowns will contribute to a higher rate of gambling addiction. The relationship between problem gambling and the amount of time spent indoors is yet to be proven. Nonetheless, the regulator is still committed to improving the industry.
The EGBA and its partner associations are campaigning for safer betting environments that prioritise the well-being of the consumer. So far, the UK gambling scene has already experienced some changes to this effect. Since early 2020, online gambling sites in the UK don’t accept credit card transactions. The ban on credit cards aimed to curb the risk of problem gambling. In May 2020, the Gambling Commission put in place new regulations in several areas, including affordability checks, restrictions on bonuses and prevention of withdrawal reversals.
Measures to Improve Betting Practices
Besides the regulations that are already in place, there are calls to improve the gambling scene with a number of other more stringent rules. The EGBA is getting support from 14 other operator associations across Europe. Gambling operators have a checklist for reference as they work to provide a better and safer betting atmosphere.
Advertising is one of the areas that the EGBA is focusing its attention. The need for sportsbooks and other operators to market their products and services is understandable. However, how they do it matters a great deal, especially in these times. The regulatory agency is warning against using COVID-19 as part of gambling advertisements. Gambling companies should refrain from pitching betting activities as alternatives or viable solutions to the various problems that individuals are facing in lockdown. Adverts should also be clear about problem gambling resources and restrictions on minimum age. For the first time, the EGBA published a pan-European code of conduct, which sets the rules for responsible advertising in online gambling.
Regulators are stepping up efforts to prevent gambling in minors. During these times, bookmakers are receiving a lot of new users. The EGBA recommends instituting more comprehensive identity verification measures. Operators should be meticulous about confirming the age and identity of customers. In the past years, gambling outfits have seen bettors who are using online for the first time. The industry also experienced an increase in betting activities across different verticals like e-sports and virtual sports.
The EGBA and partner associations are encouraging operators to be more vigilant to recognise problem gambling. Operators should set up strict protocols to track gambling behaviour so that they can provide interventions when necessary. Customers should have the tools they need to control gambling practices. Some of the tools include self-exclusion, deposit limits and time-out. Operators must ensure that users learn about the available resources on signup.
The UK Gambling Commission is working towards making the region the safest place in the world for gambling. If operators can accept the challenge to be more responsible for the well-being of their users, then the UK gets closer to accomplishing that goal. The above guidelines cater to today’s gamblers during these unprecedented times. Even as betting sites enjoy a spike in users, they have to be careful about the quality of services they provide. Although some of the proposed measures are yet to materialise, they go a long way in ensuring that bettors are operating in a safe environment.