GamStop has reported that the number of gamblers opting to self-exclude post-COVID-19 has been rising significantly in recent months. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Reports of a significant increase
As online gambling activity continues to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, a greater number of UK people are now self-excluding from online casinos and sportsbooks through GamStop.
a 21% rise in new exclusions in February 2021
According to a report in the Guardian on Monday, UK self-exclusion service GamStop reported a 21% rise in new exclusions in February 2021. Almost 200,000 people are now self-excluding as part of GamStop’s program that first launched in 2018.
On February 22, 2021, a single-day record 326 people signed up for self-exclusion. GamStop reportedly said that the rise in online betting volume in November and December appears to have led people to increase their efforts to stay away from gambling in recent months.
Self-exclusion a powerful countermeasure
Self-exclusion is a very useful tool for problem gamblers as it prevents access to any UK-licensed gambling site for either six months, one year, or five years. All gambling platforms that have a UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) license need to be a part of GamStop’s self-exclusion offering. The NGO noted that 49,328 out of a possible total of 177,038 self-excluded gamblers tried to partake in online gambling in January, but GamStop blocked them from doing so.
49,328 out of a possible total of 177,038 self-excluded gamblers tried to partake in online gambling in January
While effective at protecting problem gamblers, the self-exclusion scheme is not a “silver bullet”. Chief executive Fiona Palmer urges anyone who self-excludes to also seek some sort of treatment. She also spoke about how awareness of blocking software and self-exclusion programs has been rising over the past year.
While the majority of problem gamblers are male, GamStop has been seeing a growing number of females registering during the course of the pandemic. The number of self-excluded females recently hit 50,000, with the gender split now being about 71% male and 29% female. Of the registrants, 59% are between the ages of 18 and 34.
Government review of gambling legislation ongoing
The UKGC and the UK government have been making changes in recent years in an attempt to make gambling safer for individuals. Measures to date have included a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling purposes, as well as capping the maximum stake for highly addictive fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 ($138.57) to £2 ($2.77).
The UK government is in the process of reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act, with the aim of adapting legislation for the modern age. Last week, it completed the evidence-gathering stage.
GamStop’s own submission during the process indicated an increasing number of websites that are directing people towards black-market gambling sites which are not covered under the self-exclusion scheme.
Some of the significant potential changes that could come into place on the back of the government review include a £2 ($2.77) maximum stake per online slot spin, plus a ban on gambling companies sponsoring sports teams, organizations, and events.
Another area of concern is the prevalence of loot boxes in video games. A recent study that UK charity GambleAware commissioned showed robust evidence that loot boxes are akin to gambling. The report calls for the implementation of a variety of protections to protect players.