The number of people excluding themselves from gambling websites to stop themselves betting has risen dramatically in the last four years.
Self-exclusions – whereby a gambler will voluntarily ban themselves from a particular high street bookmaker’s or gambling website – have risen from just over 30,000 in 2013 to over 1,000,000 in 2016.
The Gambling Commission, which provided the information under a freedom of information request obtained by The Times, said that on average each gambler banned themselves from two operators.
Campaigners say that these figures highlight the growing gambling problem.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, a spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said that self-exclusion was not the solution to problem gambling, and that it only tackles the problem “after the horse has bolted”.
He instead called for a reduction in maximum stakes, adding that “the number of people that self-exclude are only a proportion of the total number of gambling addicts”.
Conflict of interest
Simon Perfitt, founder of Rethink Gambling, said there is a conflict of interest for gambling companies “because 40 to 50 per cent of their profits come from people that are addicted, so they don’t really want people to self-exclude”.
“They put all the onus on the individual to ban themselves and in shops it’s so badly enforced because it’s all done through paperwork”, he added.
Founder of Gambling Watch UK Professor Jim Orford said that self-exclusion was simply “a way of cleaning up gambling’s image”.
He said: “They like to make out that gambling is an entertainment product. But online gambling is very aggressively promoted”.
On Monday, an editorial in The Times called on the Government to urgently publish its long-awaited review of problem gambling, and to change the rules in order to protect problem gamblers.
Breaking the rules
Last November, it was reported that some online gambling firms were targeting gamblers with unsolicited texts and emails.
These messages encouraged gamblers to bet by offering deals and promotions, even after they had undertaken a self-imposed ban.
One man told the BBC that he was contacted by Unibet, an online gambling firm, just ten days after he had excluded himself, encouraging him to gamble.
He lost thousands of pounds over the course of the next three weeks, and added that several companies still contact him after his exclusions from their websites.
Prof Orford said at the time that targeting self-excluded gamblers was a ‘clear breach of the rules’.