UK Gambling Commission claims numbers have swelled from 30,000 in 2013 to over a million last year
Both land casino and betting shop, and online self-exclusion facilities for punters who suspect they are developing a problem are being used on an increasing scale, according to figures released by the UK Gambling Commission.
The figures show that across all forms of gambling in the UK in 2013 there were 30,000 self-exclusions for periods ranging from six months to a lifetime, but by 2016 this number had grown to over a million.
The majority of exclusions came from online punters opting out of gambling at websites, a factor which observers speculate could be due to the more immediate and convenient nature of player self-exclusion facilities deployed by reputable online casinos.
Players can self-exclude online at a specific online casino where they have an account, and this will lock them out of their account for a set period that they select themselves. Online operators have a variety of ID checks available to them when a new account is opened.
The process through a land casino or betting shop is reportedly more time-consuming and involves visiting the establishment.
A spokesman for the problem gambling charity Rethink Gambling believes that there may also be a conflict of interest at land gambling establishments, where almost half the profits are generated by machines that present a risk to problem gamblers.
The efficacy (or lack thereof) of self-exclusion measures has been the subject of 643 player complaints, the UKGC report notes.
The Association of British Bookmakers has commented that the figures on self-exclusion are an indication that anti-problem gambling measures are being properly applied, although some observers report that a self-excluded player at a retail betting shop can relatively easily circumvent his or her own exclusion by adopting a simple disguise. That has led to suggestions that more effective ID requirements may need to be considered.
Problem gamblers have also complained that the task of overcoming their issues is made more difficult by the plethora of promotional offers advertised, often direct to their email boxes by casinos despite their prior self-exclusion.
Online and land gambling companies have noted that some self-excluded punters will go to extraordinary lengths to breach their own exclusions, and then complain if they are successful – especially if they have lost money.
One of the problems with the self-exclusion system in the UK is that it is fragmented at grass roots level.
The UKGC is addressing this with a program branded Gamstop which will create a centralised database and enable problem punters to self-exclude with a single transaction that is effective and binding on all UKGC licensed online operators.
In planning for the past almost three years, it is expected that Gamstop will be implemented by the end of this year.