Since the ABB’s Code for Responsible Gambling was launched 18 months ago, we have made much progress on the responsible gambling agenda, with a series of initiatives being put in place for customers.
It is an agenda that is now embedded across the industry, and we continue to work closely with the Gambling Commission and the Government to test the effectiveness of what we have already done and further improve player protection.
One area where we have seen a substantial improvement is in the area of age-verification testing. The prevention of under-age gambling is incredibly important to us and we are fully committed to helping the industry as whole sustain progress in this area.
While major operators have been running their own testing programmes for several years, the ABB launched a scheme for our independent members this time last year, working to the same ‘Think 21’ standard.
All ABB members are now taking part, and we have invested a lot of time and energy in helping our independents, from providing ‘Think 21’ posters, leaflets and badges for staff to display and wear, and a series of training programmes in partnership with GamCare. We are also about to launch online training programmes for all our members.
The results have really impressed upon us all how seriously betting shops take their responsibilities to prevent under age gambling. Just 12 months after the launch of the testing scheme, our independent members are equalling the pass rates of major operators who have had processes in place for many years. Collectively, betting shops are securing pass rates comparable or better than other age-restricted products suppliers.
In recent months, we have strengthened the Code, which for the first time anywhere in the world gave players the ability to set limits on the amount of time they played on gaming machines or the amount of money they spent. Since January, all players have been forced to make an active yes/no choice as to whether they set a limit or not before they can start to gamble.
Independent research has shown for some time that setting voluntary limits is one of the most powerful harm minimisation tools available, with some 85% of players who set a limit walking away when that limit is reached.
Self-exclusion, which has been proven to work extremely effectively in helping those few people who experience a problem with their gambling, allows customers to effectively ‘ban’ themselves from a bookmakers for a period of 12 months. Shop staff will then help customers keep their promise to themselves not to gamble, by refusing them entry to the premises if they try to enter the shop during that time. Many customers extend the period of self-exclusion indefinitely.
We continue to work with the Gambling Commission on the introduction of a nation-wide cross-operator self-exclusion scheme, to come into place by April next year.
To that end, we are already trialling the first multi-operator self-exclusion scheme in Chatham, Kent where customers can fill in one form to self-exclude from all ten shops in the town center. Until this first trial, which has been well received, customers had to self-exclude from each operator individually, filling in a separate self-exclusion form from each one.
Shop staff identify self-excluded customers from passport quality pictures attached to the customers form, and browse the list of self-excluders when they start their shift each day.
The limitations of the current paper-based scheme have been taken on board by the industry.
We are piloting new ideas including a paperless scheme that will be trialled in the coming months in Glasgow City Centre and other technology-based projects which will help us create a nationwide self-exclusion scheme with the Gambling Commission next year. The Glasgow trial will see operators share information and images digitally helping shop staff across the city prevent self-excluders from placing a bet.
All of which is ensuring responsible gambling is right at the heart of everything we are doing.