Gambling Industry Urged to Improve on Age Verification

The UK gambling sector has been urged to improve its standards on age verification, as a result of research into the problem.

Gambling organisation GambleAware commissioned the research, which was carried out by polling agency Ipsos MORI and the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing. According to the findings, the regular exposure of children to gambling promotions can change their perception of gambling as an activity. The report found that 41,000 followers of gambling company social media accounts in the UK were under-16. And an alarming 17% of the followers of e-sports gambling accounts were estimated to be underage.

Speaking about the findings, the CEO at GambleAware, Marc Etches, said that gambling was an adult activity, but the research shows that it is becoming a part of normal life for many children and young adults, with potentially serious results:

“This constant exposure to it through advertising and marketing, or via close friends and family, has the potential for serious long-term implications for children and young people.”

Etches went on to say that there was a need for social media giants to improve their tools for age screening, and for companies to make better use of the existing tools. He also emphasised that problem gambling was a public health issue, that can have a serious impact on mental health, and flagged up the support available through the National Gambling Treatment Service.

The report came up with a range of recommendations, including the idea that the gambling industry should put more emphasis on the need to produce clear and more effective safe gambling campaigns. It also suggested that more effort needed to be put into education programmes, and that advertising technology be significantly improved to prevent young people being exposed to gambling adverts.

Global Gambling Hit

There was further confirmation about the potential impact on the betting sector of the COVID-19 virus at the weekend when a leading European industry organisation published new research.

The European Gaming Commission (EGBA) has issued a warning that global revenues in the gambling sector could fall by as much as 11% on previous forecasts. According to figures produced by a leading industry analyst, gross revenue in gambling sector in 2020 could fall from an estimated $473 billion to $421 billion. Those figures would represent a return to the revenue levels of 2016.

The decline in gambling revenue is likely to be softened by a surge in online betting, and analysts predict that the online sector’s share of global gambling industry revenue could rise from the current level of 13.2% to around 15.7%.

The unprecedented cancellations of major sports competitions around the world is likely to be the main factor in the decline of revenue. At the time of writing, the list of events that have been postponed or cancelled includes the English Premier League, the Bundesliga in Germany, Spain’s La Liga, the Champions League, UK Grand National and the Masters; all of which are traditionally popular betting events with punters around the world.

Back in 2018, EGBA says that its members generated around €2.36 billion in sports betting revenue, which accounted for 44% of their overall online revenue. But addressing the issue, the Secretary General of EGBA, Maarten Haijer, said that neither sport nor revenue was the priority:

“It’s sad that so many iconic sporting events are being cancelled or suspended and it will obviously have a negative impact on our sector. But the safety and health of the public is obviously more important and we fully support the sporting authorities and others in the difficult decisions they face right now.”

Rates Blow for Bookmakers

Those who run betting shops and other gambling operators were dealt a blow on Thursday when the UK government announced that they would not be able to benefit from one of the measures designed to help businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that all hospitality and retail businesses would be free from paying the business rate for a year. But betting shops and a number of other businesses are not eligible to benefit from the relief.

Speaking about the decision, the Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, said that it could lead to widespread closures:

“This decision is a hammer blow to an industry that pays billions in tax, employs 70,000 hardworking, decent people in this country, and it is one that helps keep sports alive, in particular horseracing. Without any form of support or help we will see the wholesale collapse of a number of businesses in our industry.”

Dugher also said that the gambling industry was prepared to help with the effort to tackle the crisis, and that members of the BGC had offered to release staff to help. And he said that they would continue to pressure the government to change their decision.

The two politicians who co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Racing and Bloodstock Group, Laurence Robertson and Conor McGinn, said that the government needs to ensure that the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of individuals who depend on the betting and horseracing industries are supported. They called on the government to act to support the sport.

The Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers have also contacted the UK Gambling Commission, over the level of fees they have to pay. The fees are graded by three tiers, according to the number of race meetings the bookmakers attend, but with racing suspended in the UK until the end of March, they will argue that they should not be liable to pay these fees.

Kindred Hit by Big Fine

Major gambling group Kindred have been hit with a large penalty by Sweden’s gambling regulator over failings over bonuses and lottery games.

Spelinspektionen issued the large fine, worth £8.3 million due to failings at the Kindred subsidiary, Spooniker. The operator was found to be in breach of Sweden’s Gambling Act, which came into effect at the start of January 2019. The failings, which followed a review instigated in March 2019, relate to the offering of a range of unauthorised bonuses, as well as lottery games that were not permitted according to the terms of Spooniker’s licence.

According to the rules on penalties in the Swedish sector, fines should not exceed more than 10% of the operator’s turnover, but in this case, Spelinspektionen said that the nature of the breach and the number of offenses justified a higher penalty than normal.

But in announcing the decision, Spelinspektionen confirmed that there would not be any further action, such as license suspension or revoking:

“However, since Spooniker Ltd has made a correction and it is assumed that in future the company will not violate the rules on bonus offers or offer games that are not covered by the license, the Spelinspektionen considers, however, that a warning together with a penalty fee is a sufficient intervention.”

The penalty specifically related to a number of Spooniker offers and promotions that Spelinspektionen considered to be financial inducements or bonuses, in breach of the Act. But in their response, Kindred asserted that the Act itself was vague on the issue of what offers are considered to be bonuses. As a result, the group said that they would be appealing against the decision in order to gain further legal clarification on the subject.

Kindred currently operates six betting brands in the Swedish market, including Unibet, Bingo.com and iGame. They are the latest betting operator to be hit by Spelinspektionen action as the regulator attempts to enforce the regulations in the re-launched betting market.

Germany Ratifies Gambling Treaty

The long-awaited new rules on gambling in Germany have finally been approved after the proposals, that will include the regulation of online casino and poker gaming were signed off this weekend.

At a meeting of the country’s state leaders in Berlin, lawmakers approved the regulations, known as the Fourth Treaty, which will have effect from 1 July, 2021. They also confirmed the base of the new Germany regulatory body.

The treaty, known as the Glucksspielneuregulierungstaatsvertrag (GlüNeuRStv), expands the nationally regulated online market beyond online sports betting for the first time. It will now go before each of the state’s parliaments before being submitted to the European Commission. Once the Commission have approved it, the rules can be implemented.

And, according to reports in the German media, the new gambling sector will have a new regulator, which is set to be the state of Sachsen-Anhalt. A number of states, including Nordrhein-Westfalen, Schleswig-Holstein, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse – the current regulator under the Third State Treaty, had expressed an interest in hosting the regulatory body.

Reports also suggest that there have been no significant changes to the drafts of the Treaty that had already been made public. This means that there will be significant restrictions on a number of gambling sectors. In the case of sports betting, this means that live betting will be limited to markets on the next scorer or the final result, while slots games will have a €1 per spin limit applied. Slots games must also be offered separately to table games, and both jackpots and autoplay are banned. In addition, the limit on deposits of €1,000, introduced by the Third Treaty, will remain.

Until the end of June next year, the Third Treaty will remain in force, although the body with oversight of the online betting sector, the Regional Council of Darmstadt, has yet to award its first licences. Last month it revealed that there had been 30 applications, and another 20 operators had indicated that they were interested in applying.

GVC Announces Problem Gambling Effort

Major gambling group GVC Holdings has announced an arrangement with a new partner in its efforts to do more to tackle problem gambling.

GVC will be working with Epic Risk Management across the US, in an arrangement that will be funded by non-profit group GVC Foundation US. The subsidiary is focused on promoting responsible gambling and will fund the partnership to the tune of $2.5 million over two years.

Speaking about the arrangement, the director of regulatory affairs for GVC Holdings, Martin Lycka, said that they were impressed with the work that Epic had done in Europe and that by working with the organisation in the US, they hoped to replicate that impact in the growing US market.

The arrangement will include the hosting of educational sessions that will be offered to professional and younger athletes and will focus on the real-world experiences of those suffering from problem gambling. It will also seek to promote the cause of betting integrity.

Programmes will be started throughout this year and next in 14 states across the US, including New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Indiana and North Carolina, as well as the New England region.

Paul Buck, the current CEO at Epic, said that although for most people gambling is a form of entertainment, for some it can get out of control, leading to devastating effects:

“Epic is excited to partner with GVC Foundation US to work in the hardest-to-reach sectors to prevent gambling-related harm.”

The programmes will aim to put across the message of safer gambling and sports integrity through showing athletes the real-life experiences of those who have become addicted to gambling.

GVC, which owns long established UK bookmakers Coral and Ladbrokes, is a major player in the growing sports betting sector in the US.

Gambling Industry Calls on Chancellor to Take Action

Leading UK gambling industry body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has urged Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to take more action against to tackle to problem of illegal gambling sites, while also increasing the threshold on tax relief for small businesses.

Sunak is set to deliver his first Budget on Tuesday and the BGC have urged the Chancellor to help small betting firms by offsetting the effect of the reduction in the maximum stake on Fixed Odds betting Terminals, which was reduced last year. The BGC said that this had led to the closure of around 1500 betting shops in the last year, and they called for the extension of tax relief for small businesses, which currently allows companies based in property that is worth less than £51,000 to pay lower tax. The Chief Executive of the BGC, Michael Dugher, said that it was necessary to help boost an industry that had been struggling in recent months:

“An antiquated business rates regime does nothing to help struggling high streets hit by a drop in footfall. Bookies and casinos help attract people to our town centres but once they’re gone there are few if any retailers to step in to take their place.”

The BGC also called for more effective enforcement against unlicensed betting firms, which they said were a clear threat to the licensed industry and a potential loss of revenue to the government. The BGC are calling for the Online Harms Bill that has been proposed by the government to include measures to target betting firms that are targeting UK customers without holding a license to operate in the UK market. Last month, the BGC released the findings of a report that they said showed that over 2% of UK gambling customers had used illegal sites at least once during the previous 12 months.

Norway Betting Group Criticises Advertising Ban

A leading Norwegian betting industry group has criticised the decision of the Norwegian government to close a loophole that allowed offshore firms to advertise to Norwegian clients.

The trade organisation Norsk Bransjeforening for Onlinespill (NBO) said that the measure was not surprising, but that it was disappointing, and he called for the government to move to more of a liberal position on regulation, rather than the current monopoly model that exists in Norway.

Late last month, it was announced that the Norwegian government would be bringing forward amendments to the existing Broadcasting Act. The changes would make it possible for the Norwegian Media Authority to prevent Norwegian television and internet companies to block all advertising by offshore gambling operators.

Presently, the Act only covers television stations in Norway, and for many years unlicensed firms have used this loophole to promote gambling products despite the fact that state-owned operators Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are the only licensed gambling operators in Norway.

The General Secretary of NBO, Carl Fredrik Stenstrom pointed out that only Finland and Norway operated monopoly models:

“According to Lotteri-og stiftelsestilsynet, there are 250,000 Norwegians using my members’ services outside Norway. We know there are more – but let’s say 250,000. It would be much better to give these players good tools to be able to regulate their gambling through a self-exclusion system.”

But others in Norway disagree. A report produced by Oslo Economics for both the Norwegian Sports Federation and the addiction treatment group ExtraStiftelsen Health and Rehabilitation warned of the risks of opening up the market to private firms. The report, which came out in August last year, said that such a liberalisation could lead to players moving from low risk products such as lottery tickets to higher risk online casino games. It also found that there was a potential for a fall in the amount of revenue diverted to good causes.

Ban on Australians Betting with Credit Cards Proposed

Australian lotto fans could face a new ban on the use of credit cards in future, if a recommendation under consideration by the banking industry is adopted.

According to reports in the Australian media, the Australian Banking Association is actively considering a new recommendations that would apply to all banks in the country and that would mean that credit card users would be unable to use cards to purchase either scratch cards or lotto tickets.

Newsagents in Australia have already criticised the potential impact of the measures. Critics of the move have said that tightening up the gambling rules in this area was not necessary as lotto tickets were associated with less harm than other types of gambling.

But speaking about the measure, Anna Bligh, the Australian Banking Association CEO, said that it would ultimately be a decision for individual banks as to whether they imposed the rule on their customers:

Ultimately every bank will have to make their own decision. Every bank makes a decision every time someone walks through the door, whether or not they’re going to lend for a particular purpose.”

But others have pointed out that introducing the rule in practice could prove tricky. In order to block the use of credit cards to buy lottery tickets, banks would have to use the merchant codes associated with the account receiving the payment. But merchant codes used in Australia are associated with the primary function of the business, which in the case of newsagents is not the sale of gambling products.

But the proposal is part of a wider trend in Australia. Suncorp, Bank of Queensland, Macquarie Bank and Citibank already block gambling transactions on their credit cards, while ANZ imposes a block on gambling for credit cards with 15% or less of their credit remaining.

Coronavirus Threat to US Casinos

A leading Oregon casino is taking the drastic step of closing down following the confirmation of a case of coronavirus, the third case identified so far.

According to reports, a sanitation process is underway at the Wildhorse Resort and Casino, which is owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. All promotions and casino events have been cancelled until further updates on the outbreak of the virus are available.

But the casino could be closed for a while, as the local media reports a steadily growing number of cases in the Pacific Northwest, which could have major implications for Las Vegas gaming establishments, which are bracing for a major drop in visitor numbers.

Oregon shares a border with Nevada, the home of the Las Vegas casino industry, and the ongoing outbreak in the state could have a significant impact on the casino hub.

Several US casino groups have already taken a big hit thanks to the two week shut down of casino resorts in Macau, with MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts all impacted by the effect of the coronavirus. In a recent report on the impact, a statement from Wynn Resorts said that it had caused a dramatic drop in visitor numbers:

“Visitation to Macau has fallen precipitously since the outbreak of coronavirus, driven by the Chinese government’s suspension of its visa and group tour schemes that allow mainland Chinese residents to travel to Macau, quarantines in certain cities in mainland China and the suspension by the Hong Kong government of ferry service from Hong Kong to Macau until further notice.”

An additional impact is the restrictions on travel to the US from China, which has been imposed by the US government. Many casino properties in Las Vegas rely on high-rolling tourists from China and other geographical locations. Yesterday, analysts H2 Gambling Capital predicted that the outbreak could lead to a drop of as much as 8% in the value of the international gaming sector.