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.

Mr Green Hit with UKGC Punishment

High profile betting firm Mr Green will pay £3 million to a prominent gambling harm organisation, after a ruling by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

The company, which is owned by William Hill, was found to be in breach of their responsibilities in the areas of money laundering and preventing harm. The agreement reached with the UKGC includes a £3 million payment, which will be made in lieu of the company receiving a financial penalty. Mr Green will also have to pay the costs of the regulator, which amount to £10,349.77.

The UKGC concluded that Mr Green had failed to carry out their social responsibility obligations after a customer won a total of £50,000 and then gambled it all away. The customer then went on to make deposits worth thousands of pounds, and Mr Green accepted inadequate evidence of the customers Source Of Funds (SOF) eventually accepting deposits of £1 million.

Richard Watson, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission, said that it was important that gambling customers know that there are sufficient checks in place to ensure that the UK gambling sector was crime free, and that Mr Green had fallen short of its duties:

“Our investigation uncovered systemic failings in respect of both Mr Green’s social responsibility and AML controls which affected a significant number of customers across its online casinos.

In their response, Mr Green did not dispute that it lacked effective procedures for customers who may be showing problem gambling signs, between 2014 and 2018. They also admitted to failures in identifying and following up interactions that suggested a customer had problems.

In addition, the UKGC found that there was a systematic failure to carry out SOF and Enhanced Due Diligence checks on customers that had deposited significant sums of money, with 113 of the company’s 120 highest depositing accounts having to be closed as a result.

Mr Green is now the ninth operator to be hit with serious penalties since the UKGC increased efforts to enforce the rules, a push that has resulted in over £20 million in penalty payments since 2018.

GPA Calls for Betting Ad Ban

Concerns about the relationship between the betting industry and sport have reached the world of Gaelic sport this week, where a prominent players’ association has called for a ban.

The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) represents current and former players in the sports of Gaelic football and hurling, and their concerns about betting advertisements reflect a growing awareness of the risks of gambling addiction among sports players. The GPA has called on the governing body of Gaelic sport, the GAA, to ban all betting adverts during live sports broadcasts, by writing such a ban into the GAA rules.

In the UK, bookmakers have instituted a voluntary ban on advertising during live broadcasts of sports events before 21:00. But if the GAA agree to the GPA request, that would make them the first sports organisation to institute a ban on gambling advertisements. According to reports, the issue is set to be discussed by the GAA Central Council, and the GPA hope that a new rule could be in place by 2021.

The GPA’s argument is that gambling adverts represent an ongoing risk to players. In December last year, the Economic and Social Research Institute conducted a survey of inter-county Gaelic sports players. The survey found that 80% of players believed that their teammates took part in gambling, either every day or every week. Speaking about these findings, Paul Flynn, the CEO at the GPA, said that they showed that the issue was a serious one for inter-county players:

“Both the GAA and the GPA have long been leaders in this area and we’ll now work with Central Council to take another big step towards removing the link between gambling and our games.”

He said that many GPA members had suffered through gambling addiction and that by removing the link between games and betting advertising, they would be able to reduce the risk of vulnerable players developing a gambling problem.

Addison Global Suffers Licence Suspension

Fans of casino games operated by a brand owned by Addison Global will be unable to make any bets or play online games following action taken by the Gambling Licensing Authority of Gibraltar.

Online betting brand MoPlay has been forced to turn away business after its parent company Addison had their license suspended. The decision to suspend was made after consultations with the Gambling Commissioner, and means that the short term future is uncertain for MoPlay, Addison Global and the 130 people that the company employs in Gibraltar.

In a statement, the Gibraltar government said that the Gambling Commissioner had worked with executives at the company on coming up with restructuring proposals. It added that although the shareholder of Addison had assured the Commissioner of their intention to offer full support for the further development of the business, this had not been forthcoming:

 “These proposals, which included honouring all outstanding liabilities, have not materialised and the Gambling Commissioner is no longer able to accept that the firm is able to meet its licensing conditions.”

The statement went on to say that it was disappointing that the shareholder’s promised financial support had not materialised, and that the firm had not been given the financial backing that had been promised when it first earned its licence.

The Directors at Addison have been given the task of resolving the solvency issues, but in the short term, the gambling regulator has clearly run out of patience. The suspension is designed to ensure that customers of MoPlay are not put at risk.

The MoPlay site is now displaying a message saying that they cannot take any further bets but that customers are still able to withdraw funds. But there is no mention of the license suspension on the Addison Global site, and the future of the company appears to be in doubt.

Betting Firms Should do More on Player Protection

A leading gambling protection company has said that more could be done by gambling firms in offering protection to those who need help.

Jack Symons, the founder of Gamban, a company that develops gambling blocking software, said that player protection should be given a higher priority. His comments come in the same week that Gamban announced they were forming a partnership with the Lloyds Banking Group, which would give customers of Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Halifax, the power to use the Gamban blocking system. But he said that although banks had worked hard on this area in recent times, the gambling industry itself must take more of the responsibility:

 “The regulators talk about innovation, but existing tools aren’t being used. To me, in terms of things that will actively help people, the wheel doesn’t always have to be completely reinvented. There are tools that are working and helping, they are just not being given the support they need.”

Symons said that although there were multiple technological tools that were available to tackle problem gambling, many UK firms were not taking the basic step of supporting a customer when they say that they have a gambling problem.

The partnership with Lloyds is a major step for Gamban, but other banks, including Santander and Barclays, are also working to offer gambling blocking tools to their customer base. Symons praised banks for the work they were doing on player protection, but he also said that others such as Internet Service Providers should also step up and play their part.

He added that he’d like to see these companies stepping in, particularly to prevent customers accessing illegal offshore gambling sites. He also said that Internet Service Providers could help to make it easier for customers to block all gambling sites.

Curacao Online Gambling Legislation Proposed

A well-known gambling jurisdiction could be heading for a shake-up after a leading politician announced his intention to bring forward online gambling legislation.

Kenneth Gijsbertha, who serves as Finance Minister for the Curacao government, was speaking at ICE London 2020. He was discussing the online gambling situation in the country and said that the gambling industry has the potential to become a significant driver of economic progress.

The online gambling sector in Curacao is one of the best known in the world. Curacao licences are widely held throughout the global online gambling industry, and it has become one of the most popular licensing centres in the industry. But despite having operated for over 25 years, there is no supervision or legal requirements associated with holding a licence. The licences themselves are effectively illegal and are not overseen or controlled by the Curacao government.

Speaking in London, Gijsbertha said that it was important for Curacao to bring forward new legislation for the sake of the local gambling industry, which he said could be a significant contributor to the local economy and a major source of revenue for the Curacao government.

But he also highlighted some of the problems associated with the current gambling sector, emphasising that at present, it was controlled by a relatively small number of individuals. This meant that there had to be some doubt about how much the country could benefit from full legalisation.

But there have been reports that some significant players in the political and economic sectors in Curacao are keen to explore the potential for gambling legalisation in the territory. In particular, full legalisation could lead to greater competition as other countries enter the market. It is also likely to have a knock-on effect for global operators who currently hold Curacao licences, so this is one area of potential political change that will be keenly watched throughout the gambling sector.