Earlier this week, during the 2021 Bacta Annual Convention, the Gambling Commission’s deputy chief executive officer, Sarah Gardner, spoke about the gambling market and the progress which the commission has made recently. At the start of her speech, she acknowledged that the global COVID-19 pandemic in the last 19 months has brought difficulties for everyone.
Gardner stressed that the gambling industry wasn’t spared as many brick and mortar venues struggled during those difficult times. Acknowledging that many operators had to make difficult decisions in the last few months, she added that people’s behavior had changed due to the pandemic. What had also changed was the way people were exposed to gambling as well.
GC Remains Committed to Making Gambling Safer, Fairer and Crime Free
The change in people’s behavior had led the GC to act fast and address the risks which some people may face. Although this was a challenging period, Gardner assured that the GC has been focused more than ever this year with a goal to “make gambling fairer, safer and crime-free.”
A key point that Gardner raised was regarding the enforcements and penalties issued over the last few years. She revealed that since 2017/18, more than $133 million (£100 million) penalties have been introduced. Besides penalties, the GC had also revoked 10 licenses. Gardner added the number of revoked licenses doesn’t include the licenses that some operators have voluntarily surrendered.
Gardner stressed that the GC will continue investigating and taking action against any operators that are not abiding by the rules. Moreover, she added that the Commission aims to raise the standards for all consumers while at the same time collaborating with the industry. Collaboration, according to Gardner is a key factor that helps reduce gambling harm and ensures gambling remains fair and safe.
Collaborative Relationship Is a Key to Protecting Consumers
Thanks to the collaboration, the industry together with the GC was able to introduce significant improvements, according to Gardner. Earlier this year, gamblers younger than 25 were excluded from premium and VIP schemes. Moreover, methods that reduce the exposure to gambling ads within social media were introduced as well as changes in the designs of online slots.
“The evidence suggests that we are on the right track. So let’s keep on going together.”Sarah Gardner, deputy chief executive at the GC
By using a “constructive and collaborative relationship with the industry,” those improvements have resulted in a reduction of problem gambling. Citing statistics published last month, Gardner said that the problem gambling rate in September 2020 was 0.6%. In contrast, for the same period this year, the problem gambling rate decreased to 0.3%. Additionally, Gardner said that the moderate risk rate has also declined this year. While the moderate risk gambling rate in September 2020 was 1.2%, this year, it decreased to 0.7%.
While Gambling Is Normal, Harm Must Not Be
Another key message that Gardner delivered was that gambling as an activity is “normal,” but problem gambling isn’t. Revealing data collected over the last four weeks, Gardner said that over 40% of the population had gambled in that period. This represents tens of millions of British residents visiting a betting venue, going to the bingo or purchasing a lottery ticket.
In fact, Gardner compared the gambling industry which is valued at over $18.6 billion (£14 billion) to the agriculture in the country. Revealing that gambling represents $590 (£450) lost per second by people in 2019/20, she said that gambling remains a pleasure activity for millions of people.
“So gambling is normal, but harm must not be.”Sarah Gardner, deputy chief executive at the GC
While millions of people are enjoying gambling responsibly, Gardner pointed out that there are people impacted by problem gambling. She acknowledged that although gambling is quite normal, gambling harm must not be. Thus, Gardner added that the GC remains focused on reducing the levels of gambling harm.
Cashless Wallet Apps Are Making a Difference
Speaking about cashless wallet apps, Gardner revealed that those solutions represent a “big step forward for safer gambling.” She acknowledged that this technology allows the consumers to set limits on their spending and track it as well. The pandemic had only accelerated the process, according to Gardner and more people have now been using the cashless wallet apps.
It was last December when the country launched its review of the Gambling Act. On that point, Gardner said that the review presents a unique opportunity to make gambling safer. She announced that the GC continues to contribute with advice in light of the review. Gardner did not reveal a solid time frame on when the review will be completed but reassured that the Commission will continue its efforts to make gambling safer and ultimately protect the consumers.