MP’s are calling on online gambling companies to set up a temporary £50 per day limit in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence has shown that some companies are pushing their customers towards riskier bets in lieu of the absence of mainstream sport.
This has come just after it was found that some punters had gone to their banks to impose personal caps to avoid themselves getting into debt as a result of the increase in their betting due to the coronavirus.
UK Banks step in to help
After concerns were raised, all major banks now offer their customers an option to block any payments to gambling sites. These bans can only be lifted after a 24-48 period following the option being activated. This is excellent news as the Gambling Commission estimates that 340,000 people in the UK are problem gamblers and that half a million people are in the at-risk category. The most startling statistic from the GC is that 50,000 problem gamblers are aged 11-16.
As a result of all major sporting events being cancelled, many betting companies have been advertising on social media that they are still offering people the opportunity to bet.
Firms like 32Red are also advertising their casino games more, which does have a higher rate of addiction than sports betting.
In light of all this MP’s have penned a letter to industry governing body, the Betting & Gaming Council, detailing the harm that the gambling firms could cause by prioritising profits over their customers’ wellbeing.
Labours’ Carolyn Harris, Iain Duncan Smith of the Conservatives and SNP MP Ronnie Cowan, wrote in the letter: “We are deeply concerned that as we go deeper into this crisis, more and more people will turn to online gambling as a distraction.
If the industry were to self-impose a daily limit of £50 … it would be a clear demonstration that the industry is willing to act responsibly and do what they can to protect society and peoples’ finances, at this dreadful time.”
The same group of MPs have also called on a block on customers making multiple accounts and a faster intervention from firms who are displaying concerning gambling habit
Experts issue stark warnings for the UK Government
Experts have warned that people who do have a gambling disorder could be most at risk as they are told to stay inside, will be prone to betting on these more niche events which they can’t realistically call the outcome of.
Harris went on to say: “If they’re targeting someone to bet on this kind of sport or computer-generated events, it can only be because that person is someone with a problem, to be gambling on something that obscure. It’s the industry trying to capitalise on a national disaster, encouraging problem gambling with reckless and foolhardy behaviour.”
There was also a worry that because the betting shops stayed open for longer than needed to, the virus spread is further than if they were shut earlier by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The shops were still open, even after the government had issued advice for people not to go to social gathering spaces like bars and restaurants.