Chaired by Lord Michael Grade of Yarmouth, on Tuesday 8 October the House of Lords’ Select Committee listened to the experiences of four gambling addicts, gathering further research on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry’ on UK society.
The victims` shared their experiences of engaging with gambling products and businesses, detailing personal insights on their ‘journeys towards problem gambling’.
The Committee began proceedings by asking the panel to share their first gambling experience, in which the majority of the panel detailed underage engagements with fruit machines or betting with school friends or family members.
The panel would then share their personal experiences transitioning from teenagers to adulthood, witnessing their gambling addictions grow.
As adults, the victims detailed easy access to credit loans. One victim, whose first adult job was as a police officer, stated that he had secured a £5,000 loan in less than five minutes through his mobile phone, despite having a history of ‘payday gambling’.
Access to loan facilities would be interrogated deeply by the Committee, focusing on how the victims were able to ‘get around systems’ and gamble.
A female panellist stated that ‘only one of the nine companies did an affordability check, and that was after spending £440,000’. Whilst an addict with a criminal past stated that in 2015, he was required to provide ‘source of funds’ verifications for the first time having gambled a total £1.8 million.
Progressing discussions, the Committee would question the panellists on operator engagements focusing on VIP programmes.
Detailing no care of duty undertaken by betting firms, the majority of the panel stated that they had been placed as VIP customers without background checks being referenced, and despite their spending habits indicating that they were ‘payday gamblers’.
The Committee would interrogate the panel’s interactions as VIP players, focusing on betting firms’ communications and duties towards high spending customers.
A panellist would bluntly label VIP programmes as ‘simply grooming’, detailing that ‘none of them do proper checks, when excessive money is being spent’.
The hearing would move onto assessing support structures for problem gamblers and victims, reviewing customer access to self-exclusion mechanisms.
Here, the panel criticised GamStop for limiting self-exclusion to a period of five-years and maintaining no permanent ‘lifetime exclusion‘ criteria.
Despite all self-excluding, the panel detailed that were still able to engage with gambling firms using different IDs, and that they would still emerge with constant gambling communications provided by affiliate marketing websites and TV adverts.
The UK Gambling Commission would be also chastised, as the addict with criminal convictions stated that he had written to the UKGC confessing that he had stolen £1.8 million – but was told that he could not be helped as had moved abroad to escape his troubles.
“Surely the Gambling Commission should have shared that with all the other operators, and then maybe more damage would not have been done. I do not hold them fully accountable, but I should not be able to outsmart an operator” – stated the addict.
Speaking further on regulatory frameworks, the panel stated that the UKGC lacked accountability detailing that the regulatory authority had no interest in assisting in disputes between gamblers and betting firms.
“If you complain to the Gambling Commission, you think there will be some accountability—but there is not, so you complain to an operator and there is rarely accountability from them. So where do you turn if you have no money and you cannot afford a solicitor to go to court? You have nowhere to turn”
The Select Committee will continue to hear evidence from all gambling-related critical stakeholders, gathering factual insights with the aim of developing better regulatory development of the UK gambling sector.