UK Gambling Industry in the News — Weekly Round-up for October 12, 2018

GVC Formalises Chief Exec’s View On Pre-Watershed Advertising Ban

And launches a multi-million pound sterling community program

GVC Holdings plc has followed up on its chief executive’s comments at the weekend regarding more restraint in gambling advertising.

CEO Kenny Alexander said in an interview that was widely publicised that he favoured the idea of a ban on gambling adverts around live football, before the 9 pm watershed.

The company took the opportunity Tuesday to additionally reveal that it is setting out a series of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to minimise potential harm caused by problem gaming.

Alongside these responsible gaming measures, the Group is announcing a multi-million-pound investment into a new community programme.

The company statement notes:

“Whilst the overwhelming majority of our customers enjoy gambling safely, GVC recognises that for a small minority, gambling can have a negative impact on their lives. In order to minimise the potential for harm, GVC is outlining a four-fold approach:

  • Advertising – Three quarters of the British public think there are too many betting advertisements on television in the UK. GVC recognises these concerns and will support a move to ban gambling adverts around live football, before the 9pm watershed.
  • Research – In order to better understand the scale and causes of the problem, GVC will be announcing details on a multi-million pound research partnership with one of the world’s leading academic institutions. This project will assess the extent of internet gambling, identify the markers of harm across products and propose improvements to our own algorithms. Further details will be provided in due course.
  • Education – Educating young people on the potential dangers of gambling-related harm is also central to the policy. GVC has therefore agreed to partner with GamCare, the leading provider of support to problem gamblers, to roll out its Youth Outreach Programme, nationwide across the UK. This investment of GBP 500,000 over the next two years will continue to raise awareness in both young people and youth professionals of the dangers associated with gambling.
  • Increased investment – To support our responsible gaming programme, GVC will double its investment in this area, committing over GBP 4 million in 2019, twice the contribution called for by the sector’s responsible gambling organisations”.

Kenny Alexander, GVC’s CEO, commented in the announcement:

“We fully recognise the need to ensure we do everything we can to ensure an enjoyable experience for our players that minimises the potential to cause harm. The measures we have set out today demonstrate our commitment to take tangible action to understand and reduce the impact of problem gambling.”

Alongside these responsible gaming measures, GVC announced Tuesday at a Parliamentary reception attended by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a new community programme to support aspiring athletes, as well as grassroots community and health projects, over the next three years.

These include:

  • A three-year partnership with SportsAid, which will deliver funding for 50 aspiring Olympians across the UK
  • The establishment of an independent Community Fund, with GBP 2 million of seed funding run and administered by the UK Community Foundation. This will deliver small scale grants to local good causes who promote grassroots sports and tackle men’s health issues.

This is in addition to the existing Ladbrokes Coral Trust, a successful pro-bono colleague volunteering scheme and funding for a number of responsible gambling charities including Gamble Aware and GamCare.

The multi-million-pound Community Fund will allow GVC to support long-term, sustainable, local good causes that help tackle a range of issues, including men’s health, grassroots sport, women in sport and disability sport. Many of the organisations who will benefit need a small injection of cash to keep their heads above water and continue to provide a much-needed service in the local community.

Alexander observed:

“Today’s unique investment highlights the new commitment that the company will be taking to invest and support the communities we serve. Through these partnerships we are delighted to be supporting the sporting heroes of the future as well as the local clubs where many of them have started their aspiring careers.”

Tim Lawler, CEO of SportsAid, which will be one of the recipients of GVC help, said:

“SportsAid’s primary purpose is to support talented young sports people and GVC will help us to do that. A major challenge for us though, is to raise awareness of the charity and we feel, with this long term commitment from GVC that many more people will get to know hear about SportsAid.

“It’s an important time for British sport and SportsAid is well-placed to make a positive contribution. Support such as this from GVC, along with their aim to champion women in sport and disability sport in particular, enables SportsAid to continue making a real difference to the next generation of athletes.”

Online Gambling Chief Calls For Less Advertising

Advertising on sports is “out of hand” says GVC’s Kenny Alexander

The chief executive of major UK retail and online gambling group GVC Holdings, Kenny Alexander, has added his voice to calls for less advertising, opining to the newspaper City AM that the number of ads appearing during football games had got “out of hand”.

The GVC group comprises major betting companies like Ladbrokes Coral and Bwin, and Alexander said that he hoped that the rest of the industry would join his group in tightening up on advertising so that there was a level playing field for all operators.

“Most people in the gambling industry think there are far too many ads,” Alexander told City AM. “We should make the changes collaboratively with the rest of the industry, which might be difficult, and ultimately it’s up to the government to decide if they want to legislate or not.”

Alexander’s comments come on the heels of recent warnings by the Labour Party and the UK Gambling Commission that if the industry does not sort out the excessive advertising issue, outside intervention may be necessary to resolve the problem.

The UK media has also been pressuring for a reduction in the sheer volume of advertising targeting UK punters by operators in an intensely competitive industry.

A recent study by the Guardian newspaper showed that during June-July’s World Cup football, fans had to endure a bombardment of almost 90 minutes of betting advertisements.

Alexander also expressed concern about the impact on young people, noting:

“Particularly around the watershed, the most vulnerable to gambling are the younger generation. Those who can gamble as well as those can’t at the moment but will in a year or two are at risk.”

He suggested that if there was a will to address the problem across the industry, reductions in advertising could be achieved by the end of this year.

Church Of England Backs New Activist Anti-Gambling Group

Eclectic coalition is led by a Conservative peer

The latest group to demand severe restrictions on gambling advertising in the UK is being led by Conservative peer Lord Chadlington, and is backed by Labour and Liberal-Democrat parties, the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Church of England.

Lord Chadlington’s objective is to persuade the UK government to legislate for advertising restrictions similar to those in Australia which would see such material banned from television one hour before all live broadcasts, and for one hour afterwards.

The Conservative Party peer has published poll figures from a sample of 2,000 respondents across Britain which show that 58 percent support a blanket ban on gambling advertising on all UK channels and platforms.

The alliance wants to see gambling operators forbidden from targeting television viewers and online media with live odds on matches that may be watched by minors.

Supporting the Chadlington drive, the Church of England claims that UK bookmakers have failed to exercise any restraint over sports events advertising

UKGC Slaps Rank Group With GBP 500k Penalty

For failings in protecting problem gamblers

Rank Group is the latest to be sanctioned by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for failings in the protection of problem gamblers.

The London-listed firm has agreed a penalty package of GBP 500,000 for the transgression following an investigation by the UKGC.

The investigation found that Rank Group’s land-based and online Grosvenor Casino failed to “interact with a customer who was displaying problematic behaviour, contacted him during a self-exclusion period and did not follow rules for the provision of credit.”

The investigation revealed that the customer lost a whopping GBP 1,000,000 in a single 24-hour period.

“We expect all operators to protect any consumer who maybe experiencing problems with their gambling, and operators shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that VIP customers don’t experience difficulties,” Richard Watson, Gambling Commission executive director, said.

“No matter how wealthy customers are, operators still need to monitor them effectively to ensure they aren’t showing signs of problem gambling. It is certainly not appropriate to visit customers during a period when they are self-excluded.

“This penalty package would have been a lot higher were it not for the positive action Rank took in terms of self-reporting their failures and being open and transparent during our investigation.”

Rank Group PLC’s full Public Statement and Penalty Package on the matter can be read here.