SIS hibernates, UK advises online gamblers, Hills’ corona tweet fails


uk-gambling-commission-william-hill-coronavirus-tweet-failUK gamblers have received some unsolicited advice from their local regulator on what to expect from online betting sites during the COVID-19 pandemic, although not all operators appear to have got the message.

On Friday, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) issued an advisory to gamblers noting that “more people will be engaging with online gambling websites” during the current period of social isolation. As such, the regulator offered some guidance on the various harm-reduction measures available to consumers.

In a nutshell, set spending limits, restrict gambling company exposure on social media, self-exclude if you don’t know when to say when, check for the UKGC seal of approval on all websites, read operators’ terms and conditions and ask for records of your gambling activity.

Earlier this week, the UKGC issued a notice to operators warning them not to let standards slip during these trying times. Enter GVC Holdings, which on Friday announced a raft of additional safer gambling safeguards, including proactive communication with customers noting the existence of safer gambling tools.

GVC also praised the Betting & Gaming Council’s new “10-pledge action plan” that the industry group worked out with its members to ensure standards are maintained even as revenue is decimated by the utter lack of sports and racing events. With respect, it’s all fairly boilerplate and more a reflection of the desperate need that all business sectors currently feel to be at least SEEN to be doing something.

In terms of tangible action, the UK’s National Lottery announced Friday that it would distribute up to £300m to charities and local volunteer groups over “the next few months” to support “the most vulnerable” members of society during the pandemic.

It’s not actually new money, just the National Lottery Community Fund switching its focus “for the foreseeable future” to reduce the damage caused by COVID-19. Still, National Lottery operator Camelot called it “the UK’s biggest non-governmental contribution” to pandemic-mitigation efforts.

In less positive news, Friday brought word that betting data provider SIS (Sports Information Services) was halting all non-essential services and furloughing most of its staff. The company said it will continue to supply content to online clients when possible, but retail betting operations (which have all been shut in the UK) were temporarily toast.

With much of the horseracing world on lockdown, SIS had tried to fill the void with more greyhound service, but with further racing shutdowns having been announced, company CEO Richard Ames said Friday that “an interim period of hibernation” was the only logical step to ensure the company’s long-term future.

Finally, a regulatory tut-tut to bookmaker William Hill, which on Wednesday issued a tweet celebrating one “pro of online casino: you can play in your pyjamas,” accompanied by a grinning emoji. While Hills swiftly deleted the tweet, it can’t have gone unnoticed by the UKGC, which the previous week had warned its online licensees not to “exploit the current situation for marketing purposes.”