McArthur reminds operators of responsibilities amid Covid-19

26 March 2020

British Gambling Commission chair Neil McArthur issued a message to online gambling operators, reminding them of the importance of consumer protection and responsible marketing amid the effects of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19)

McArthur (pictured) said that, given the massive increase in people who will be at home for most of the day, licensees must make sure their standards of consumer protection remain as high as possible. There had already been a notable increase in activity around online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports, he noted.

“Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling has always been a major priority and we are very mindful – as you should be – of the fact that the risks of harm arising from online gambling have increased as a result of recent events,” McArthur said.

As a result, he reminded licensees that they must act responsibly, particularly around affordability checks.

In addition, he said they must be mindful of the fact that customers may be facing financial uncertainty or loneliness and anxiety at this time. Operators were advised to step in as soon as players showed signs of harmful behaviour.

The Commission chief also told operators and affiliates to ensure their marketing efforts are socially responsible. He said marketing efforts must not “exploit the current situation for marketing purposes” and operators should “be very cautious” when cross-selling players on new verticals after the cancellation of all major sports.

In addition, McArthur reminded licensees of the importance of compliance with licence conditions and codes of practice.

“If we see irresponsible behaviour we will step in immediately,” he said. “So, whilst I know that the current climate is unprecedented, gambling operators must play their part in making sure that people are kept safe.”

The impact of the pandemic is also being monitored by the regulator's programme director for industry insight Ben Haden, who is collating all information on its effects for a report.

The McArthur's intervention came after the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) this week called on the industry to impose a £50 daily spending limit for customers during the pandemic.

“As our daily life becomes increasingly restricted and bars, pubs and entertainment venues close, many millions of people will now be at home with time on their hands,” the group wrote in a letter to trade association the Betting and Gaming Council. “Many will turn to the mini casino on their mobile phone for entertainment. Some of these will never have considered online gambling before; others will have spent years trying to avoid it.”

Yesterday, APPG chair Carolyn Harris told iGB 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.

“This is not the right time to be stepping up marketing operations,” Harris said. “The providers need to be behaving responsibly and I think a £50 cap would demonstrate this.”