The National Health Service (NHS) has demanded that gambling operators take ‘urgent action’ and stop taking credit card transactions ahead of the ban in April, VIP experiences and even bet to view streaming of sports.
In a letter to the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), NHS England‘s National Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch has called for a ban on promotions such as free bets to limit what she has called a ‘vicious gambling cycle’.
She said: “I am concerned about offering people who are losing vast sums of money… free tickets, VIP experiences, and free bets, all proactively prompt people back into the vicious gambling cycle which many want to escape.
“The gambling industry has a responsibility to prevent the occasional flutter turning into a dangerous habit. The links between the sporting industry and gambling are deeply disturbing, and the tactics used by some firms are shameful.
“It is high time sporting bodies get back to their roots and start focussing on fans and families enjoying watching their heroes play, rather than allowing firms to hijack sport in pursuit of profit.”
Responding to the letter, the BGC said that it takes its duty of care to customers “incredibly seriously” and was determined to make gambling safer.
BGC Chair Brigid Simmonds OBE said the industry is determined to raise standards and improve safer gambling. “The points that you raise are important,” she responded.
“Just some of the work our members have already done includes new age-verification checks, increased funding for research, education and treatment, introduced a whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling advertising, worked together as an industry to create GAMSTOP which will now be mandatory for all operators, created monitoring algorithms to monitor play both online and in retail to help identify those at risk of harmful play and just last week waived exclusivity on FA Cup games.”
Simmonds revealed the company were also working on affordability checks, AdTech to block adverts and calling on search engines to block adverts from non-UK licenced operators advertising using help search terms.
“We have also announced Safer Gambling Commitments which represent a set of measures to deliver long-term and fundamental changes in how gambling companies are run in the UK and how they empower, protect and support their customers.
“The five core safer gambling Commitments are targeted to: Prevent underage gambling and protect young people; Increase support for treatment of gambling harm; Strengthen and expand codes of practice for advertising and marketing; Protect and empower our customers and; Promote a culture of safer gambling.
“We are currently working with a range of stakeholders on safer gambling initiatives therefore it would be good to understand in greater detail your experience, knowledge and concerns and how we may address them.”
The NHS has only recently been pressed into taking problem gambling more seriously, as it does for other addictions such as alcohol and drugs, after moves by Health Secretary Matt Hancock a year ago.
Up until then all the problem gambling treatment was funded by the industry, including the NHS run National Problem Gambling Clinic, as well as the 120 GamCare treatment centres throughout the UK.