The BGC’s drive to promote safer gambling has produced tangible results, but we are determined to go further
When the Betting and Gaming Council was established towards the end of 2019, we were clear that, as well as representing the regulated industry, we were a standards body with a clear mission to promote safer gambling.
As proof of that, we adopted and have begun implementing 22 Safer Gambling Commitments, part of our overall drive to create a safer gambling environment.
As we approach our second anniversary, I think any fair-minded assessment would acknowledge the huge progress we have made – as well as our determination to go even further.
From new mandatory codes of conduct to changes to game design, we have not just talked the talk but also walked the walk on encouraging safer betting while also ensuring that the vulnerable are protected.
As we look forward to the Government concluding its Gambling Review and bringing forward a White Paper at the end of the year, this is an opportunity to look at what we’ve done so far.
The updated 7th edition of the Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising, which came into force last October, introduced tough new rules aimed at making it even harder for under-18s to see betting adverts online. For example, all regulated operators must ensure that paid for social media ads can only be seen by over-25s. This has resulted in a 95 per cent reduction in the number of such ads seen by 18 to 24-year-olds.
Changes to online game design – including slower spin speeds and the banning of some features which had caused concern – was further evidence of our commitment to delivering change, while another new code of conduct has led to the number of people enrolled on VIP schemes falling by 70 per cent. It means that no one can become a VIP without going through strict checks.
Earlier this year, after concerns were raised over gambling adverts being posted on football clubs’ official Twitter accounts, we introduced new rules on the use of social media. The new code of conduct bans calls to action or links to gambling websites on clubs’ organic tweets, while any display of direct bonuses or odds on organic tweets which cannot be solely targeted at over-18s have also been outlawed.
Our biggest members are also spending £100 million on treating problem gamblers, while we are also funding the £10 million Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, which is delivered by YGAM and GamCare and aims to educate every 11-19 year old in the country about the risks associated with gambling.
This is all in addition to our members’ commitment that 20 per cent of their TV and radio adverts are safer gambling messages.
Meanwhile, the whistle-to-whistle ban on TV betting commercials during live sport before the 9pm watershed – introduced by our members shortly before the BGC was established - has led to a 97 per cent reduction in the number of such ads seen by children at that time.
And you don’t need to look very far for evidence that the work we are doing is having an effect. A recent report by the Gambling Commission found that the proportion of gamblers assessed as being at medium risk of harm has halved from 1.4 per cent to 0.7 per cent since the end of last year. Overall, the regulator found that the rate of problem gambling in the UK is 0.4 per cent, a figure which has remained stable for the past two decades.
But we are far from complacent and are determined to maintain the momentum through things like a review of sports sponsorship, additional measures for 18 to 24-year-olds, improved self-exclusion schemes, new measures around the prevention of online advertising to vulnerable consumers, increased online and retail customer interactions and the promotion of bank blocking software.
Our drive to raise standards and promote safer gambling has already produced tangible results. In the years ahead, we are determined to go even further.
Wes Himes is the Betting and Gaming Council’s Executive Director for Standards and Innovation
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