BGC announces action plan for safer gambling amid Covid-19

27 March 2020

Standards body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has published a new ten-point action plan to ensure its members keep customers safe during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

The pledges, published in the wake of new consumer advice from the Gambling Commission, build on actions and interventions already carried out by BGC members as part of their efforts to protect customers. Members will now be required to step monitoring of customer behaviour, as well as delivering tailored responses and new actions to reflect the “unprecedented situation” of social distancing and home working.

“In this time of national crisis, with so many people self-isolating and social distancing at home, it is vital that we do everything possible to ensure safer gambling and to protect potentially vulnerable or at risk people,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher (pictured) said.
 
“We all know that levels of gambling have plummeted not just because of betting shop or casino closures, but because of the absence of sport, which is also fundamental to online betting,” he explained.

The pledges will come into force immediately, ensuring anyone betting online that may be more vulnerable as a result of the crisis is properly protected.

Throughout the crisis, BGC members will increase safer gambling messages across all sites, and in direct communications with customers.

It will step up interventions if customers increase time and money spent beyond pre-crisis patterns, and actively promote deposit limits.

Members will work to ensure advertising is appropriate and responsible, including monitoring volume, and report all illegal and rogue advertising from unlicensed operators.

Affiliates, which have come under increased scrutiny in the past week, will be subject to a ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy.

Operators will also signpost links to GamCare and the National Gambling Helpline, as well as self-exclusion system Gamstop, which is to become mandatory for all operators from next Monday (31 March).

Despite the sporting shut-down, BGC members will commit to continuing their reserach, education and treatment (RET) fuding.

Finally, they will look to support their staff through welfare checks and well-being help, as well as providing volunteers and facilities to support the government’s efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

“Although gambling levels have dropped during the Covid-19 crisis, our commitment to safer gambling is being stepped up," Dugher added. “It is important that we help our customers stay safe and in control of their gambling during these difficult times.”

GVC Holdings, which welcomed the BGC’s intervention, has implemented a series of additional safeguards for customers as a result of the pandemic. As mandated by the Council’s pledges, it will step up communication and responsible gambling messaging, as well as providing new guidance to affiliate partners.

It will also launch new controls, such as curfew setting and stake limit controls on slots, as well as new reverse withdrawal settings, to prevent customers from having a change of heart and cancelling the withdrawal to continue gambling. These complement the operator's existing deposit and time limits, and self-exclusion functionality.

GVC will add two new markers of harm indicators to its safer gambling algorithm, to make it easier to spot unhealthy play patterns at an earlier stage. This will see the operator review player behaviour pre- and post-home isolation, with a sliding scale of interventions initiated that could ultimately result in accounts being suspended or closed.

“At this time of unprecedented uncertainty, we are more committed than ever to keeping our customers safe while they enjoy our products,” GVC chief executive Kenny Alexander explained.

“As an industry, we have a clear responsibility to protect the vulnerable and we warmly welcome the coordinated approach announced today by the BGC which provides a template for strengthening player protections.”

The BGC’s pledges come after the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group this week called for operators to introduce a £50 daily gambling limit for customers during the crisis.

Speaking to iGB, the group’s chair Carolyn Harris MP said she had been made aware of increased advertising by operators, adding it was “only fair” that operators do more to protect consumers at their most vulnerable.