Force Banks to Let Customers Block Gambling Transactions, Monzo Tells Ministers

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The UK government should force banks to let customers block all betting transactions, according to proposals led by the online lender Monzo, which wants gambling firms to hand over data to make sure the system is watertight.

In a letter to the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, who is leading a landmark review of gambling law, Monzo, campaigners and addiction experts called on the government to use the opportunity to remove obstacles for people who want to stop betting.

All banks and other account providers should be made to offer tools that allow customers to bar themselves from making any gambling transactions on a debit card, they said.

Gambling companies would also be made to hand over their own bank account details, which could be stored on a central registry. This would help banks block all forms of payment for customers who want the feature, preventing them from using other means to circumvent card blocks.

“We believe the government should take the opportunity afforded by the Gambling Act review to make sure every consumer in the UK can access these blocks, regardless of who they bank with,” TS Anil, chief executive of Monzo, said.

The letter was also signed by researchers at the University of Bristol, a leading NHS gambling disorder expert, firms that provide gambling blocking software and gambling addiction campaign groups including GamFam.

“These tools are simple to build, proven to work, and will help protect hundreds of thousands of people,” they said.

The letter also calls on the government to work with video game companies to see if it would be possible to identify and block payments made for “loot boxes”, in-game features that have caused concern due to qualities similar to gambling.

“Ultimately, the Gambling Act review offers a unique opportunity to create a world-leading self exclusion framework in the UK to reduce gambling harms, and help consumers gain control of their finances,” the letter said.

“The rise in online gambling, and new ways to pay, requires a robust response from the government.”


MOTO Renews Partnership with Inspired’s Playnation

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Contract with leading provider of gaming machines extended for further five years   

MOTO, the UK’s largest motorway service operator, is pleased to announce the extension of its partnership with Playnation, part of Inspired Entertainment, a leading provider of gaming machines, who will continue to provide its entertainment services across all MOTO sites.

Playnation has a long-standing relationship with MOTO, providing customers with some of the best adult gaming machines across the motorway service infrastructure. Given the success of this partnership and the proven popularity of their products, MOTO is pleased to extend this relationship for a further five years. Playnation will embark upon a full product refresh to upgrade their existing gaming offering and systems to enhance the customer experience.

Peter Davies, Managing Director of Playnation at Inspired Entertainment adds: “We have a strong and long-lasting relationship with MOTO, and we are thrilled to renew our partnership. MOTO is a leader in their sector, and we are excited to continue to build our collaborative and strategic relationship that will bring best-in-class hardware, platform, content and innovation to the UK motorway service infrastructure.”

 Nick Tatum, Moto Hospitality’s Chief Customer Officer commented: “Moto are delighted to extend our current partnership with Playnation. Playnation offer a first-class product and service model and we look forward to providing our customers with leading products and game content across our motorway locations. ”


ASA Reports Drop in Number of Gambling Ads Breaking Age Restrictions

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The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has reported a fall in the number of breaches of age restriction by online gambling ads.

The ASA monitored online ads for gambling, alcohol, tobacco and other products deemed harmful to children from October to December 2020. It found 47 age-restricted ads on a sample of 49 websites and 12 YouTube channels with large numbers of underage viewers. Another 21 advertisers placed age-restricted marketing on eight YouTube channels and 23 websites.

However, only three of the ads identified in the latest report related to gambling. These appeared on three different websites but were published by the same advertising agency.

The ASA said: “Following our first and second reports, the ASA is encouraged by the lower number of ads found to have broken the rules.

“Once we have run the monitoring again in Q1 2021, we will in the summer publish a final report, reflecting back on this year-long project and in which we reserve the discretion to publicise repeat offenders, if there are any.”

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “We remain alive to concerns and we will be monitoring and reporting on this again.

“But we’re making significant progress in our ambition to build a culture of zero tolerance for age-restricted ads appearing on websites aimed at children and we expect that progress to continue.”


UKGC Provides Update on Delivery of National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms

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The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has published its latest update in the delivery of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

The latest update provides detailed information on the work delivered by partners over the past year including health bodies, charities, regulators and the gambling industry to reduce gambling harms.

Tim Miller, Executive Director said: “The updated actions map, available on our website, offers our partners the opportunity to see the progress achieved so far during the Strategy, as well as current and planned projects. The new, more accessible version of actions map demonstrates our commitment to continuously improving how we engage with stakeholders and to making collaboration as effective as possible.

“The past year brought challenges for almost every organisation that we work alongside. Despite that, a comprehensive programme of work has continued to be delivered to support those experiencing gambling harms. We would encourage those interested in the Strategy to look at the new actions map.”

Phil Mackie, Chair of the Scotland Strategy Implementation Group, said: “I welcome the Gambling Commission’s publication of the new and improved actions map. This new format will support the Scotland Strategy Implementation Group’s work to collaborate to reduce gambling harms, and identify collective priorities for action.”


GAMSTOP surpasses 50,000 female registrants

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GAMSTOP, the free, independent self-exclusion tool for people living in the UK, has announced that more than 55,000 women have registered to self-exclude from all online gambling sites through the tool.

The proportion of women self-excluding through GAMSTOP has risen since the coronavirus pandemic struck last year. In March 2020, 26% of all registrants to GAMSTOP were women, a number that had risen beyond 31% by the end of the year.

Surpassing the 50,000 mark in registrations is significant in demonstrating that online gambling addiction, often regarded as being a ‘male’ problem that is linked to sport, is having an increasing impact on women.

Statistics released by the National Gambling Treatment Service had already shown an increasing number of women receiving treatment, up from 19% in 2015/16 to nearly 25% in the year to the end of March 2020. This coincides with increases in those with an addiction to gambling online, up from 57% to 69%.

According to Gamcare, the number of women reporting gambling problems is increasing at double the rate of men, but only 1% of women who experience gambling related harm contact the National Gambling Helpline.

Reacting to the news, GAMSTOP CEO Fiona Palmer said:

“ As we begin to understand the demographic make up of our register it is important to feed back to the various support agencies and work together to encourage those women who have registered with GAMSTOP to access the help they may need going forward. 50,000 female registrants is a significant number and we are pleased that they have found the GAMSTOP self-exclusion scheme and that it is a useful practical tool to help with their gambling issues”.

Psychotherapist Liz Karter said:

“The pandemic is creating a perfect storm of triggers for addictive gambling in women: feeling trapped, anxious and depressed, and overwhelmed by families or loneliness. As mental health problems increase so too will addiction to gambling. I treat young women who are wild with anxiety and stress, and for whom gambling started as self-medication, but the end results are always devastating costs to their mental health and finances. Women feel that they will be judged more for a gambling addiction than an addiction related to drink or drugs, even though the physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms are similar, and equally dangerous.”

Lisa Walker, who has been in recovery from gambling addiction for more than two years, and now counsels others who are struggling with addiction said:

“There is such a big stigma that women don’t gamble, which isn’t accurate. What I have found is that women don’t feel that they can talk about their addiction, with it often being seen as a male issue. I think its fantastic that women are signing up to GAMSTOP and seeking help, though it also shows that there is lots more work to be done.

I have spoken with many women who don’t feel they can go to support meetings, and I find it so upsetting that somebody could feel that way, as though they can’t even seek help. I hope things change and if we can increase the visibility of women who are recovering in the media, that could make a big difference.”

Anna Hemmings, CEO of leading national gambling support charity GamCare, says:

We must get to grips with the unnecessary shame and stigma women feel around asking for help with gambling. Gambling is not just a male activity, and it can affect women in significant, potentially life-changing ways.

Our dedicated Women’s Programme has told us that we need to remove barriers for women to access help with gambling related harm – the issues that women are facing are often hidden from support services. GamCare is pleased to be able to work with GAMSTOP so people registering for online self-exclusion can also be swiftly connected through to specialist support and treatment services, which greatly increases the chance of sustaining a recovery from gambling harms.”


Gauselmann seek partnership approach to planning the way out of lockdown

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Gauselmann UK, one of the leading low-stake gambling investors on Britain’s high street, has urged government to work with the industry and agree an action plan prior to publication of the government’s exit strategy which is expected later this month.

Sascha Blodau, General Manager, Gauselmann (UK), underlined the importance of using the current period to iron out any issues or misgivings surrounding the re-opening of AGCs and Bingo Clubs.  He said: “As a business and as an industry we need to plan for a successful re-opening and to be able to hit the ground running as soon as the health data tells us it is safe to re-open

“In specific terms we would like to know what the perceived risk hierarchy is for retail premises on the high street and the criteria used in this evaluation; whether the plan is to return to tiering and if so, what will be permitted under each tier as greater numbers are vaccinated; identifying and understanding what conditions have to be met in order to introduce a lighter touch regulatory regime and an insight to the structure if not the precise detail of government support measures as businesses begin the long journey of commercial recovery.”

“We operate a total of 180 venues in Britain and each week of lockdown is costing the company close to £1m. We have learned a lot about operating during the pandemic, I believe our safety protocols compare favourably with any bricks and mortar retailer and we are committed to supporting local economies and providing employment for people living in the 140+ towns and cities where we have venues.

“It’s of huge importance that we use this time to ensure that we are crystal clear about what’s required to reopen and trade alongside businesses such as Licensed Betting Offices with whom we share key characteristics. As an industry we can use this period to undertake any preparatory work that’s necessary to plan for re-opening and help to kick-start high street economies.

“There’s a huge appetite throughout Gauselmann and the UK industry to play a key role in helping to drive the recovery: so let’s get the details agreed now for when lockdown ends thereby providing the security and confidence that business needs.”



BGC Responds to UKGC’s Announcement on Games Design

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Responding to the UK Gambling Commission’s announcement on games design, Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said:

“As the standards body representing the regulated industry, the BGC is determined to drive change and promote safer gambling. That’s why we welcome the Gambling Commission’s announcement which builds on the BGC’s new code of conduct from last September for the design of online games in a bid to further improve player safety.

“BGC members have already introduced measures including the slowing down of spin speeds and banning several gaming features which have caused concern.

“Among the major commitments we have already introduced are minimum game cycle speeds of 2.5 seconds, the ending of turbo play, which allows players to speed up games, and the scrapping of multi-slot play, where a player can place multiple stakes on different games at the same time. We are also progressing a game labelling project which will improve labelling of games in order to educate players on key game characteristics.

“None of these new changes apply to the unsafe, unregulated black market online, but the BGC will work with the regulator, academics, consumers and individuals with lived experience of betting-related harm to identify further best practice in game design going forward, to ensure we keep up to date with changes in technology.”


Rank Group Slips to Loss in Pandemic

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The Rank Group has slipped to a £48.6 million pre-tax loss in the last six months of 2020 after a challenging first half of its financial year.

The group’s underlying net gaming revenue was down 58% from £371.2m to £156.9m although digital was up 1% to £66m.

Rank, which had made a £39.8m pre-tax profit in the last six months of 2019, had most of its venues shut for much of the six months. It saw a 10% growth in active customers in UK digital brands.

In light of the pandemic, the board has not proposed an interim dividend but is committed to restarting dividends when circumstances permit.

Chief executive John O’Reilly said: “There is no doubt that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been far beyond anything we or any other leisure operator could have imagined or planned for. The ever-changing restrictions coupled with curfews, which in particular have a seismic impact on our Grosvenor venues, have resulted in an exceptionally challenging first half for the group.

“I have remained incredibly impressed with our teams who have displayed high levels of professionalism and adaptability under the continuously changing circumstances. Despite the difficulties we are facing, they have continued, through a range of initiatives, to help our local communities, front line workers and those who are vulnerable.

“We have taken a stringent approach in applying affordability restrictions, particularly on higher staking customers, which has impacted revenues in our UK facing digital business in the half. We have been making good progress in the development of our proprietary technology platform to prepare the digital business for its exciting future. Once we have successfully completed the migrations of Mecca and Grosvenor, our in-house technology and development capability will give us much greater agility and speed in delivering developments, providing the group with a platform for growth both in the UK and internationally.

“There continues to be uncertainty looking ahead, particularly as our venues remain closed and we have no firm guidance as to when we will be able to reopen.”


White Hat Gaming to Pay UKGC £1.3M Settlement Over AML Failings

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White Hat Gaming has agreed to pay a settlement of £1.3m after a UK Gambling Commission investigation identified a series of money laundering and social responsibility failures with the Malta-based operator.

The investigation identified failings in the way online operator White Hat Gaming identified and managed customers who were at higher risk of money laundering and problem gambling.

Inadequate anti-money laundering and social responsibility procedures led to failures including not establishing the source of funds for a customer who lost £70,000 in three months and ineffective interaction with both a second customer who lost £50,000 in just six hours and a third customer who lost £85,000 in just over one hour.

In addition to paying a £1.3m regulatory settlement, White Hat Gaming has committed to an ongoing programme of improvements to strengthen its policies and procedures.

Richard Watson, Commission Executive Director, said: “Through our tough compliance and enforcement activity we will continue our work to raise standards in the industry and continue to hold failing operators to account.”

The operator’s £1.3m payment in lieu of a financial penalty will be directed towards delivering the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.


UK Govt “Likely” to Ban Gambling Firms from Football Shirt Sponsorship

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Increasing concerns over gambling addiction in the UK could see Boris Johnson announce a ban on betting company sponsors appearing on football shirts in the months ahead.

With a review being conducted by the government, The Telegraph report the prime minister could bring about a ban as soon as autumn, despite there being an awareness that such a move would increase pressure on the sport at a time when revenue streams have been severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Any decision, the report continues, will be informed by evidence of the betting industry’s influence on addiction within the sport, but the suggestion is that a shirt sponsor ban looks “increasingly likely” to happen.

Betting fell during the first lockdown as elite sport was halted. It did not, however, drop to a level many anticipated, with a surge in interest in online slots believed to have been caused by punters who would have normally wagered on football and horse racing.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is heading up the review, with the PM expected to play a key role.