APPG dismisses BGC Covid-19 commitments as "weak"

3 April 2020

The Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has written a letter to industry body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), in which it picks apart the measures set out in its new ten-point player protection plan.

Although the APPG was pleased to see the BGC make an effort to reduce harm during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, it said it felt the measures were nowhere near enough to help, with some lacking clarity and others reiterating existing pledges.

“The Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group welcomed the announcement by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) this week that it is seeking to set the standards expected of members during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” the APPG said. “It will not come as a surprise to you, however, that we do not think that the standards you have proposed go anything like far enough.

“Most measures are loosely worded, do not make firm commitments or merely restate existing obligations. Instead, we would expect you to adopt standards that respond appropriately to the context we are in and which will help to protect gamblers at this critical time.”

The APPG raised questions about each of the BGC’s 10 pledges, all of which it said were “weak” and “fall well-short of what is required”.

In regards to the BGC’s first pledge, to increase safer gambling messages across all sites and direct to all customers, the APPG asked for information about how this increase will be measured and how safer gambling messages will be defined.

Responding to the BGC’s pledge to “step up interventions” for customers who have increased gambling time and spend, the APPG said it was “essential” that the BGC clarified the minimum increase in gambling time and spend required for an intervention to occur.

While the BGC pledged to “actively promote” deposit limits, the APPG said this was not good enough, as it had already called for mandatory £50 daily deposit limits last month (23 March).

The pledge to issue welfare checks and well-being help for staff and to supporting the Government’s ‘National Effort’ with volunteers and facilities, was also queried, with the APPG asking for more specificity about what this entailed.

The BGC also committed to ensuring "appropriate and responsible advertising”. However, the APPG pointed out that responsible advertising was already part of the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) and asked whether the amount of advertising would be reduced.

The APPG raised a similar point about signposting help such as Gamcare and the GamStop self-exclusion system and the BGC’s commitment to ensure funding for research, education and treatment. It also made a similar point regarding the pledge to report all illegal gambling advertising from unlicensed operators, which it also pointed out would already be in the interest of BGC members.

In terms of the BGC pledge to institute a “one strike and you’re out” policy for affiliates, the APPG again said this pledge does not go sufficiently beyond the LCCP, as operators are already responsible for the work of affiliates.

The APPG said that, if it wants to seriously reduce harm the BGC must institute five urgent measures.

Among the steps the APPG expects the industy to take are a commitment to implement mandatory deposit limits for as long as the Covid-19 crisis lasts, a £2-per-spin stake limit - as first urged in November 2019 - and a ban on VIP schemes.

In addition, the group called for an end to all gambling advertising and sign-up bonus offers and for operators to “make their data available to ensure independent research can be undertaken to assess the scale of harm being caused by the industry at this time”.

“At this time, it is incumbent on us all to do everything we can to support people’s safety and wellbeing, to support our society, protect the vulnerable and to put public interest ahead of gambling companies’ profit,” the APPG said.

On 25 March, APPG chair Carolyn Harris called on British operators to step up efforts to protect customers amid the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and reiterated the group’s calls for a £50 daily deposit limit.

Speaking to iGB, the group’s chair and Swansea East MP Harris explained that she had already had many people inform her that they were being “inundated” with emails and texts from operators, tempting them to gamble online.