The UK gambling industry tries to keep the central government from imposing new regulations on it by devising five safer gambling commitments. The announcement of these commitments came in the same week that shares in UK gambling firms went down by almost £1.2 billion, after it was revealed that MPs had proposed curbs on online casino games worth more than £2 billion a year.
The announcement also follows years of criticism that gambling firms have not taken seriously the risks their products pose to some individuals. Chief Executives of ten of the leading gambling groups in the UK said the five commitments represent “the most comprehensive set of measures from a wide group of leaders across the sector to support the UK Gambling Commission’s national strategy to reduce gambling harms.”
The five commitments will be independently monitored and publicly recorded. These are:
- To prevent underage gambling and protect young people
- To increase support for treatment of gambling harm
- To strengthen and expand codes of practice for advertising and marketing
- To protect and empower customers
- To promote a culture of safer gambling
Devised by the betting firms, the development of the commitments is being facilitated through the Senet Group, an industry-funded body that claims its existence is aimed to “raise standards in the sector, supporting the Gambling Commission’s work to make services safer and fairer ensuring, in particular, that responsible gambling messages are put to players with frequency and prominence.”
Previous efforts by the group, however, have been met with criticism. Academics at the University of Warwick have even claimed that the group’s slogan, “When the fun stops, stop” has failed to have any significant effect on gambling behaviour. In response, the group has said it is rethinking that campaign.
Flutter Entertainment Chief Executive Peter Jackson has signed up to the five commitments, saying: “These commitments are an important step forward for the sector in its own right and also signal a genuine desire to ensure that acting responsibly is at the heart of our businesses.”
One of the first actions announced in relation to these commitments is a four-year national programme to educate young people. The program will be delivered by two charities, GamCare and the Young Gamers and Gamblers Trust. It will be funded by a £10 million grant from the industry. The charities will work with young people, their families, and their support workers, with the aim of improving awareness and understanding of the risks associated with gambling.
Other signatories to the commitments include Aspers, Caesars, Genting, Playtech, Rank Group, and Sky Betting & Gaming. The industry admits that this move is an attempt to self-regulate before the central government actually imposes tighter measures on it.
It may be worth noting that MPs who were involved in the successful campaign to cut stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals have recently recommended the same limit be applied to web-based slot machine games. This recommendation triggered the drop in share prices of UK gambling firms and the consequent announcement of the five commitments by the betting industry.