Summer of tough love for UK gambling industry

  • Updated
  • By Phil Blackwell
Gambling in the spotlight

It’s as if the phrase, “one step forward, two steps back”, was written for the gambling industry,

With the media already hot on its tails, the past week has seen a cluster of negative news stories regarding the industry’s social responsibility failings, inferred greed and perceived negligence.

Starting with the backlash against 32Red’s effective sponsorship of Wayne Rooney’s transfer to Derby County (6th Aug) and culminating in last night’s (12th Aug) BBC Panorama episode, “Addicted to Gambling”, the past seven days have seen an almost relentless stream of negative press.

In between, there has been:

One of the most damning accounts from the Panorama documentary was the story of JackpotJoy player, Amanda (not her real name), who lost a total of £633,000 on the site.

JackpotJoy told the BBC that it had encouraged Amanda to use responsible gambling tools and acted in accordance with the relevant regulatory requirements.

But you have to feel that the nuances of this argument are well and truly buried beneath the huge headline figure and story of personal loss.

The media is becoming increasingly impatient with the “acted in accordance with” retort from UK gambling operators and public sympathy naturally resides with customers, not casinos.

The Gambling Commission doesn’t help in its declaration that it has no plans to introduce maximum stakes online and insistence that players are already provided with the tools they need to keep them safe.

This is despite the introduction of a £2 maximum bet limit on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in April and an admission from the Government that a six per cent increase in online gambling taxes was designed to make up the tax shortfall.

It’s not a huge leap to suggest that perhaps the only reason that online bets are not restricted is to allow such tax revenue to be generated, and that responsible gambling tools act as a smokescreen to allow it to go unchecked.

Of course, some tools do have a real impact on player safety, such as cooling off periods, self-exclusion and the ability to set deposit limits. However, if a potentially addicted player chooses not to use them, there has to be a point that operators intervene.

When an addicted player has lost all sense of personal responsibility, through no fault of their own, how can they be expected to act in a responsible way?

This is the question that operators and the Gambling Commission seriously need to consider if public sentiment towards the industry is to improve.

Are you struggling to control your gambling spending? Read our range of responsible gambling guides below: