The U.K’s gambling industry has promised to not take advantage of the current COVID-19 pandemic, but lawmakers are saying their 10-point pledge doesn’t go far enough. More than 22 MPs have called for stricter measures to reduce problem gambling, calling the industry’s proposals “very weak.”
The 22 MPs, as well as two Lords and Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, published a letter demanding more of the industry during this time of crisis. “People are at home and are severely restricted, with access to mini-casinos on their laptops or mobile phones,” they wrote in a letter to Nigel Huddleston, the minister responsible for gambling. “We therefore have deep concerns about the ‘pledges’ which have been proposed this week by the BGC.”
The Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) offered a 10-point pledge recently, specifically promising to not take advantage of problem gambling, as the U.K. largely sits at home with nothing to do. In the letter from the MPs, they suggested these 10 points were weak, and already expected of them by current regulations.
Instead, they suggested five measures, including an end to VIP schemes, a suspension of advertising and bonus offers. They also want a limit to stakes on slot games, with a maximum of £2, and want mandatory limits on total deposits.
Finally, they called on the gambling operators to release internal data to independent researchers, so that they can be assured the public is not put at additional risk of problem gambling during the coronavirus outbreak.
Bowden-Jones made comments that would seem in place even without a crisis. “The U.K. does not shield its young and vulnerable from gambling advertising despite research showing that exposure to gambling will act as a trigger to gamble even in young people. This is not in keeping with a public health approach.”
But she did offer how this current situation may lead to children going online and discovering wagering. “With the current lockdown, many more will be tempted by boredom and financial concerns to try gambling as a way out. Now, more than ever, at this time of uncertainty, a moral code is required from the gambling industry.”
These demands come shortly after the UKGC put in new measures to put the brakes on any acceleration in gambling problems. Operations will now have to slow down their slot spins, and age-restrict VIP programs to those aged 25 and up.