The BGC is the gambling industry's standards body, founded back in 2019. This saw top gambling operators in the UK commit to take part in a new safer gambling initiative that is designed to reduce gambling harm to both young people and legal age gamblers alike. It has, since its foundation, been committed to upholding and improving standards within the gambling industry and has seen the introduction of new safer gambling tools and measures, such as deposit limits and slower gameplay.
Recently the BGC announced that change will come, regardless of the government's Gambling Act Review. Ahead of this review, and as the UK stands in another lockdown, conversation about problem gambling has once again become an important one to have.
As part of our continued mission to provide our readers with informed insights from some important figureheads in the gambling industry we sat down with Wes Himes, Executive Director of Standards and Innovation at the BGC. During this in-depth chat, we discussed the BGC's mission statements and the successes they have experienced since being founded, and how safer gambling can continue in light of the coronavirus lockdown.
Read part 1 of our interview below, and look out for further articles where Wes and I discuss further topics.
OB: What has the BGC succeeded in since it was founded?
Wes Himes: I think there’s two main things that we did. The first one is to raise standards. We have been rolling out a series of new standards, codes, and policies along with our pledges during covid. I think the second one is that it has brought together the industry and created a chance to create a new organisation with diversified members covering a broader area of the industry and it has been a key transition point for the industry in going forward into raising the standards, and of course ultimately engaging with government, parliamentarians and other stakeholders.
OB: Is it the 10-pledge plan that has been the most effective plan for the BGC?
Wes Himes: The ten pledge plan is a unique and separate effort, and just one of our standards raising efforts that we brought in during the first lockdown that was really meant to continue raising our awareness and heighten our actions around ensuring that our customers have a safer gambling environment. So these pledges came at a point in time, the first lockdown, when we really had to focus on creating that environment, we’ve reviewed those pledges for the current lockdown and they're part of our commitment to our customers.
OB: How have your aims changed since this third lockdown?
Wes Himes: This third lockdown is obviously different from the first one but notwithstanding that we continue to uphold all of our ten pledges. So that’s certainly having our operators intervene and engage more with their customers, encouraging them with both messaging and the various tools available in order to continue to make a safer gambling environment.
We want to make sure that all operators are ensuring that their staff wellbeing is being looked after and continue to make sure that we review and monitor our advertising to make sure that it is appropriate, obviously making sure that for instance that there is no relation to covid or stresses around covid as an example, as well as ensuring that rogue advertisements are quickly reported so we can make sure that we notify the regulator on that.
It’s also about making sure our affiliates are aware of making sure their ads are appropriate and we continue to enforce our policies with our affiliates. That’s just an example of a few of our pledges and the way in which we are activating them.
OB: What has been the most effective measure in safer gambling that the BGC has implemented?
Wes Himes: It’s hard to pinpoint any individual one measure that we have implemented because they all impact different operator and customer segments. We did a report earlier this year on the whistle-to-whistle ban, banning any gambling advertisements 5 minutes before and after, as well as during matchplay, which has had a massive impact on the exposure to gambling advertisements, particularly to under-18s. We also unveiled the ad-tech code which increased the sensitivity level for access to age-related products by raising all filters to 25+ for social media, which is something that I think has been tremendously useful.
We had a game design code come in which increased the minimum duration of time for gameplay, removed the turbo feature etc, anything that would speed up gameplay. There will be a number of other measures coming out around bonuses for instance, to continue pour work around game design. We had our HVC code, around High Value Customers, or VIP’s, and that has had a tremendous effect on ensuring that the customers that are participating in those programmes can do so safely.
So, it’s hard to pinpoint a single thing because these all impact different areas of the industry, but I think as a cumulative package of standards it’s started us on our journey but it’s certainly not the end point.
OB: Are there any other statements you would like to add on behalf of the BGC?
Wes Himes: The only thing I would add is that, in terms of the pledges, we have had extraordinarily positive feedback. We had an increase in interventions in over 25% during the first lockdown period, we had direct messaging to our customers encouraging them to use the safer gambling tools available increase by over 150%, we shut down a number of affiliates we felt were breaking the protocols that we set, so our pledges have been incredibly successful in continuing to promote a safer gambling environment and we are sure they will continue to do the same in this current lockdown.
While there is clearly further action to be taken towards safer gambling we are pleased to see the BGC has a clear plan of how to continue to promote a safer and fairer experience for all players and staff. For further information on responsible gambling visit our Safer Gambling hub page to read our entire collection of Responsible Gambling guides.
A big thanks to Wes Himes for taking the time to speak to us. He has given us a really good insight into the actions the BGC is taking to help protect players and formulate a safer gambling landscape.
Hannah has written news articles and lifestyle blogs for three years. Venturing into the gambling industry Hannah is writing gambling content for Online Bingo and has written content for Lodgis Paris.
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