Gambling addiction is on the rise in the UK, and the response from betting operators has been disappointing apart from isolated promises – merely ticking the box now and then after the regulatory authorities hint tightening their noose and implementing stricter measures.
Exposing the hoax of betting companies, in an interview with ABC, one of the pioneers of modern sports betting in the UK, co-founder of Irish betting giant Paddy Power Betfair (now Flutter Entertainment), Stewart Kenny has admitted that the company has been doing absolutely nothing to address the issue of gambling addiction.
“If I could live my life again, you know, I would have been more proactive on gambling addiction. I should have seen the harm from gambling addiction much earlier than I did. And must take some of the blame. I resigned from Paddy Power because the industry was doing absolutely nothing, in my view, about gambling addiction.” – Stewart Kenny.
Kenny severed ties with the gambling company in 2016.
Gambling Addiction In The UK
Gambling addiction is increasingly becoming a growing menace ruining lives, careers, and families in the UK. Most shockingly, the children in the UK are the ones who are at the highest risk.
A recent report from the UK Gambling Commission found that the number of children at the risk of gambling addiction in the UK has risen by over 400 percent in the past two years.
A previous study from the Deakins University researchers explains the cause for this rise in gambling in children. The study blames most of it on gambling adverts and claims that for most of the children in the UK, sports betting and sports are indistinguishable as they believe it to be a part of the sporting activity.
The study quotes a ten-year-old saying: “Every time there is sport on, I’m like, I’m going to bet $5 for the Socceroos to win.”
A recent survey by the NHS finds that over 50 percent of the UK adults participated in some form of gambling activity in the past 12 months. The figures are alarming, and it has exposed the claims of dampening interest in gambling activities.
Gambling Companies Not Doing Enough
Gambling companies have not been doing enough to address the issue. Top UK gambling operators have not not been fulfilling their social responsibility obligations; while the companies pay their CEOs in millions, they fail to pay a nominal percentage of their profits to promote responsible gambling.
Betting operators are required to pay 0.1 percent of their profits to gambling charities – but the companies haven’t been paying even the nominal 0.1 percent. Gambling charity, Gamble Aware which receives the majority of the funds reported it received £400,000 less than its target in 2018. Top betting operators including BET 365, Paddy Power Betfair, and William Hill all failed to make the requisite payment in 2018.
Research published by Scott Houghton, a postgrad research scholar at the Northumbria University, found that gambling operators in the UK rarely promote responsible gambling messages through social media. The study found that less than 2 percent of the posts and tweets by gambling operators may tend to encourage responsible gambling, clearly establishing that gambling operators in the Uk are not interested in tackling gambling addiction.
Over 40 different gambling operators were investigated, including five most-followed operators – Paddy Power Betfair, SkyBet, Ladbrokes Coral, Bet365, and bookmaker William Hill.
The UK gambling watchdog has been strict about regulatory compliance and has been introducing a series of new measures. Earlier in the year, to the opposition of several betting operators, the maximum stake limit on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) was straightaway pulled from 100GBP to 2 GBP. The move was aimed at addressing problem gambling.
In May, the UKGC also introduced a mandatory age verification to restrict underage access to betting sites. Also, there have been restrictions on all betting adverts during televised sports in the daytime, except for horse racing.
The UK gambling commission had also earlier recommended the government to introduce a mandatory levy for all those accessing gambling facilities. However, the government refused to act upon the recommendation.
As the UK is having its next General Elections this week, all major political parties have been promising reforms to tackle gambling addiction. The Labour Party, which has been very actively campaigning for stricter measures, has promised to fully revise the 2005 Gambling Act adopted by the previous Labour government.
The Liberal Democrats see gambling on credit as a catalyst that fuels gambling addiction. They have promised a ban on gambling with credit cards.
After drawing a lot of flak from the opposition for not doing enough to address the issue of gambling addiction, the incumbent government has also, in its manifesto, eventually promised a review of the gambling act.