The gambling industry has been told it must do more to protect gamblers, following a surge of online betting during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Gambling Commission has instructed firms to contact gamblers who have played online continuously for an hour, to establish how at risk they are and determine whether further action needs to be taken.
Previously, there was no specified time of continuous betting that gamblers had to reach before firms were required to contact them. The new guidance also explains that sending an automated alert or email to the gambler will no longer be sufficient.
The Gambling Commission reported that betting through virtual sports and online poker rose by 40 and 38 per cent respectively in March.
Approximately two thirds of “engaged gamblers” have also increased the time or money they have spent on online betting during the lockdown.
The Commission’s guidelines order firms to prevent gamblers from immediately using their winnings to place further bets before the money has gone through their bank account.
Companies are expected to tighten affordability checks and reassess how they determine the extent to which a gambler is at risk of harm. They should be prepared to prevent them from placing more bets and stop offering bonuses and promotions.
Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, said: “We are monitoring online operators closely and if we see irresponsible behaviour we will step in immediately, suspending licences if we need to.”
Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “It is vital that people are protected from the threat of gambling-related harm and I welcome these latest steps from the Gambling Commission.”
The online gambling industry has recently been under fire for ‘bombarding’ recovering gambling addicts with adverts during the lockdown.
Britain’s largest betting firms promised to end all television and radio gambling advertising for six weeks, but this pledge did not include online promotions.