UK gambling has suffered an embarrassing weekend, as national media reports that the safeguards of GamStop – the sector’s online self-exclusion scheme – have been breached by problem gamblers.
On Sunday 13 January, the BBC ‘Five Live Investigates’ program revealed that problem gamblers registered on the GamStop scheme had been able to circumvent exclusion provisions by simply changing minor details when registering with online gambling operators.
Launched in April 2018, GamStop is the industry-wide independent self-exclusion scheme, which provides vulnerable consumers with the option to block themselves from engaging with all licensed UK online gambling operators for periods of 6 months up to 1-or-5 years.
In its November update, GamStop revealed that 50,000 UK players had signed up to the scheme, which has been developed to support national problem gambling stakeholders, referring signed-up consumers to GamCare and the UK National Debtline.
Further embarrassment was exposed at a retail level, as BBC journalist Mick Tucker revealed that he had self-excluded from 20 betting shops in the Grimsby area using the industry’s ‘Multi-Operator Self Exclusion Scheme – MOSES’.
Following a 12-month period, the journalist would report that only five out of the twenty-one betting shops had subsequently refused him from engaging with their gambling/betting services.
“It is really disappointing to come back to Grimsby, a year on and see how easy it is to bet,” he told the BBC. “To be honest today it seems like only William Hill and Megabet are taking this scheme seriously, as I could wager without a problem at all the other bookmakers.”
In its report, the BBC details that Betfred leadership have personally contacted the broadcaster, stating that they will launch an investigation and will commit to further staff training.
Speaking to the BBC, new Senet Group Chief Executive Sarah Hanratty stated that the independent industry standards association was disappointed with the results of the investigation.
Nevertheless, Hanratty and the Senet Group still back comprehensive self-exclusion schemes as a directive for tackling and preventing problem gambling.
“What is important, is that these schemes are not regarded as the final solution, but the first steps for gamblers who genuinely want to take control of their issues – self-exclusion is an important part of that journey.”
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, Chair of the cross-party parliamentary group on UK gambling, told the BBC that she was unsurprised by industry self-regulation failing to secure the desired safety standards.
“Don’t tell me, that these industry bodies, that fund these schemes are acting in anything other than their self-interest,” she said. “I have reported previously of experiences of gamblers self-excluding in shops through MOSES, only to receive emails telling them of online gambling services.”