The UK gambling industry took another public relations punch to the gut this weekend following an investigative program’s revelations of betting shops’ failure to identify a registered self-excluded bettor.
The BBC’s 5 Live Investigates program got one of its reporters to sign up for the betting industry’s multi-operator self-exclusion scheme. Bob Cave submitted a photo of himself that was circulated to all the betting shops in Grimsby, which was chosen for its density of betting shops.
Cave (pictured) visited a total of 21 betting shops in the area, and found few barriers to accessing the shops’ fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT). In fact, it wasn’t until the 17th shop visit that Cave was challenged regarding his resemblance to a self-excluded gambler, and only two out of the 21 shops ultimately took any notice of Cave’s presence on their files.
The Senet Group, the industry association that came up with the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, called the program’s findings “a bit of a wake-up call” and said “we need to work out what we can do that’s better.”
The program was broadcast just days after the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) issued a report that recapped “a year of responsible gambling,” and cited a GambleAware report earlier this year that claimed the self-exclusion scheme was performing well.
Following the broadcast, the ABB issued a statement calling the program’s findings “disappointing,” but claimed the test was “conducted in artificial circumstances,” given the fact that Cave was only posing as a problem gambler while “those who self-exclude are normally known to the staff in the shops they exclude from.”
Regardless, the UK Gambling Commission’s executive director Sarah Gardner appeared far less skeptical of the program’s methodology, saying the regulator was “concerned” by the results (or lack thereof). Gardner appeared to be losing patience with bookmakers by saying the situation “really is getting to the place where there is nowhere to hide.”
Gardner’s attitude mirrors that of UKGC Chairman Bill Moyes, who last month warned operators that “public support for gambling is beginning to decline.” Earlier this month, Tracey Crouch, the UK minister responsible for overseeing the gambling industry, warned operators that they were entering the “last chance saloon” in terms of their adherence to responsible gambling obligations.
Following a deluge of ‘bookies behaving badly’ reports, the UK media clearly feel they’ve got the industry on the ropes and one suspects that these types of probes will only increase until the UK government follows through on its threats to shorten the industry’s leash.