iGB Intelligence reports iGB-Market-Monitor-May-2020-proof4 | Page 12

Part 1: The UK – Covid-19 compounds contraction further information on the success (or not) of any mitigation measures that have been introduced. Walking the regulatory tightrope The trading statements and commentary from the operators seen since the crisis began to unfold in late March have been suffused with talk of safer gambling and brim-full of explanations of what the companies are doing individually and collectively to alleviate concerns over increased gambling by a locked-down population. This has been led by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which initially in late March issued a 10-point pledge action plan that set out the “standards expected” from its members at this time. The 10 points were standard fare, including an increase in safer gambling messaging, the promotion of deposit limits and a ‘one-strike-and-you’re-out’ policy on any affiliate breaches of the code. Call and response However, such has been the pressure from the anti-gambling lobby, including open letters to the press from members of the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG) and from sports minister Nigel Huddleston (and the accompanying and consistent social media pressure), that the BGC was forced into announcing further measures in a letter to the minister. Then, to follow that up, the BGC announced towards the end of April that its members had agreed to voluntarily suspend all TV and radio advertising for at least a month. This was despite the drop in gambling advertising spend in the period and an absolute decline of 10% in the volume of sport and casino advertisements. But the GRH APPG wasn’t finished. Two days after the BGC announcement, it issued further demands suggesting there should be an all-out ban on all gambling advertising. “Now that you accept that gambling advertising is harmful, we assume your members will continue to restrict advertising after the lockdown period, if, as you say, you are keen to do everything to protect customers,” the letter said. Notably, it went on to suggest that all forms of marketing of gambling – including sponsorships, digital and affiliate marketing – should be a part of this new prohibition. All this has been taking place against the backdrop of further pressure from the Gambling Commission, which in late March drew attention to what it wanted to see from the sector, including the recognition that consumer protection “must be paramount”, that marketing must be conducted responsibly and that compliance with licensing must be adhered to. With a barely concealed threat, the chief executive Neil McArthur suggested the Commission would “step in immediately” if it sees what it deems to be irresponsible behaviour. High hit rate encourages critics One source pointed out that in terms of its own stated aims, the GRH APPG had enjoyed a large degree of success since last November when it made its call for a £2 stake limit to be introduced for online slot games. The other measures called for last year included a ban on credit bard gambling, which was introduced in early April having only been announced in January. But more than just that one measure, the 10-point action plan, the further measures on VIPs and the voluntary TV and radio ad ban all featured in some form or another in the GRH APPG’s November recommendations. The obvious conclusion, perhaps, for those who wish for further and harsher measures to be introduced, is that they should keep on pushing. With the wind in its sails, the GRH APPG might view the alacrity of the manner in which the sector – via the BGC – has moved on advertising and other issues as encouragement to keep up the pressure. Early indications suggest this is exactly the tack the critics will take. On the day after the advertising announcement, in the House of Commons the leading lights of the GRH APPG, including Carolyn Harris, were quick to press home their advantage with another slew of parliamentary questions iGB Market Monitor • The UK and Sweden • May 2020 9