Online gambling regulators in the UK and Malta have warned operators not to let their standards slip during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic … or else.
On Thursday, UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) CEO Neil McArthur issued a public message to the nation’s online gambling licensees, noting his recent discussions with industry representatives regarding how the current crisis has impacted their operations.
While the UKGC is currently drawing up an initial assessment of how its own work will be impacted by COVID-19, McArthur wants UKGC licensees to be “very mindful … of the fact that the risks of harm arising from online gambling have increased as a result of recent events.”
McArthur made it “absolutely clear” that the UKGC has three expectations of its licensees at present: consumer protection, responsible marketing and compliance with license conditions and codes of practice.
Similar to warnings issued last week, McArthur reminded licensees that the UKGC would “step in immediately” if it detected “irresponsible behavior,” including any operator choosing to “exploit the current situation for marketing purposes.”
McArthur noted “reports of an increase in online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports” and warned licensees to be “very cautious when seeking to cross-sell online gambling products to customers who signed up with you in order to bet.”
McArthur urged the public to contact the UKGC’s Confidential Intelligence Hotline “if you have information or concerns about the behavior of an operator.”
Meanwhile, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) issued its own notice on Thursday regarding “socially responsible commercial communications with respect to COVID-19.” The MGA noted that this was “a very trying time for all” but could prove “particularly distressing to players.”
As such, the MGA warned that any marketing pitches that contained “direct or indirect reference to COVID-19, or any related circumstance, would be considered to amount to a breach” of the MGA’s Commercial Communications Regulations.
The MGA is watching for any marketing pitch that encourages antisocial behavior or suggests that solitary gaming is preferable to social gaming. Other major no-nos include suggestions that gaming can solve problems, could be a solution to financial concerns, an alternative to employment or is ‘socially attractive.’
UK-listed gambling operators saw mixed share price results on Thursday after several days of outsized gains. Flutter Entertainment and William Hill each dipped just under 1% while Playtech slipped 2.8%. Bucking the downward trend were 888 Holdings (+2.9%), GVC Holdings (+3.6%) and Rank Group (+4%).