Blog: Safer gambling more important than ever during coronavirus
Responsible and safer gambling is an essential objective everyday of the year, we all want a sustainable industry with customers that can enjoy their play in a safe environment. But it is now even more important as millions of Europeans are isolated at home due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Thankfully there are many tools available to help gamblers manage their online gambling in a responsible way. But the onus shouldn’t only be on the customers, online gambling companies should also act responsibly and be mindful of their social responsibilities during these difficult times. Common sense goes a long way.
That’s why online gambling companies should ensure that responsible gambling tools are widely available to their customers and these tools are visible, accessible and easy-to-use.
Self-exclusion is one such tool and allows customers to ban themselves (permanently or temporarily) from accessing a specific gambling website. It is naturally a vital safety net for those who experience problematic gambling and/or wish to stop gambling. Responsible companies (including EGBA members) already provide self-exclusion tools to their customers – and it is a legal requirement in at least 23 EU countries.
There are also national self-exclusion registers. These registers allow customers to ban themselves from accessing all the gambling websites licensed in a country. 14 EU countries have already established these registers – and we think all countries should have one. It is important that these registers are easy-to-use and not easily circumventable.
Unfortunately, self-exclusion registers don’t apply to black market gambling websites (based outside the EU) which operate outside the control of national gambling regulators and their laws. These websites can, therefore, avoid compliance with self-exclusion registers and disregard many other essential social responsibilities. In the context of safer gambling, national gambling regulators must step up their efforts to tackle these operators.
Advertising helps signpost the regulated market but should be responsible
In this respect, advertising plays a vital role in signposting to customers the licensed/regulated online gambling companies which comply with their country’s consumer protection rules and whose activity falls under the control of the national gambling regulator.
Without licensed advertising, customers are more susceptible to play on harmful black market websites – which have ramped up their advertising efforts during the coronavirus – where the customer has little or no consumer protection. This is a prospect which all responsible stakeholders should seek to avoid.
That being said, we encourage licensed companies to be mindful of their own activities in these difficult times and step up their own safer gambling efforts. That’s why we recently issued guidance on how companies can promote safer gambling and responsible advertising. We urge all online gambling companies to apply these essential measures.
Coronavirus will lead to less online gambling, not more
While it is extremely important that online gambling companies are vigilant in protecting their customers during this lockdown, well-intentioned concerns of an “explosion of online gambling” are unfounded.
The cancellation of major sports events and the consequent loss of sports betting revenue negatively impacts online bookmakers: website traffic and revenues will drop. That’s because sports betting makes up nearly half of Europe’s online gambling activity. In the absence of sport events to bet on, some sports betting customers might switch to other gambling verticals but most will simply stop betting altogether until sports have resumed. This is reflected in recent market updates.
Here in Belgium, the government confirmed last week that traffic to licensed gambling websites had decreased by 38% (from pre-COVID19 levels). A significant drop which the government attributes to the decline in sports betting.
This reality is also reflected in H2 Gambling Capital’s recent forecasts which predict a 12.5% drop in 2020 global gambling revenues (compared to 2019). While online gambling’s share of the declining gambling market is expected to increase – by 3% – from 13% to 16%, real terms online gambling will actually drop because of the overall market decline.
This is contrary to what many predicted and disproves the concerns about dramatic increases in online gambling, which have underpinned the recent introduction of severe advertising restrictions in some European countries.