Gamblers searching for mobile apps to help them overcome their addiction have been bombarded with adverts tempting them to bet, it has been revealed.
Promotions for Ladbrokes Casino, 888 Casino, and Virgin Games Casino appeared as top results when the Daily Mail searched for “gambling stop” and “block gambling” on Apple’s App Store.
Apps to help addicts and block gambling transactions on phones only appeared beneath the sponsored listings.
Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, said: “If this doesn’t prove what we most feared, nothing will.
“The industry needs to wake up to reality, and regulators need to stop sitting on their hands because when this pandemic is over these firms will be held accountable for any damage done to vulnerable gamblers.”
A Virgin Games advert offering “30 free spins when you play £10” appeared top on a search for “gambling help”, while 888 Casino offered an £88 bonus to those searching “gambling stop”.
GVC, which owns Ladbrokes, said they are “liaising closely with Apple to understand how this could have happened and have suspended our Apple search advertising with immediate effect”.
The news comes less than three weeks after the Government said it was a “priority” to protect “children and other vulnerable people from gambling harms” during a parliamentary debate held just before the coronavirus lockdown.
Harris used the debate to highlight the gambling industry’s “dominance” over sport and how children and the vulnerable are being “groomed” by the amount of betting advertising.
Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the Government “will not put our work to minimise harm on hold” while the Gambling Act 2005 is being reviewed “for the digital age”.
Last month, Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, warned that increased numbers of people would turn to online gambling during their isolation due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, it recently emerged that the Commission is planning to cut staff, leading to concerns that its ability to regulate the gambling industry will be further weakened.