MPs are calling on online betting firms to take action to protect vulnerable people in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm, and Vice Chair Iain Duncan Smith, said the gambling industry must prove that it “is willing to ensure that vulnerable customers are put before profits”.
The MPs called for a ban on promotional advertising, a £2 cap on online bets and “strict limits on deposits”.
Over half of Britain’s gamblers bet online, usually on a smartphone. In 2018, they lost £5.6 billion on online bets, according to the APPG.
Homes, livelihoods and relationships are all put on the line
Writing in The Times the MPs pointed out that unlike betting shops, there are no “stakes, prize or deposit limits in the online world. It is possible to bet thousands of pounds in a matter of minutes from a mobile phone with no supervision.”
“For these people now confined to their living rooms this is not harmless fun. The consequences of losing control can be devastating”.
“Homes, livelihoods and relationships are all put on the line when gambling encouraged by playful advertising results in a complete loss of self-control”, they added.
It comes as organisations seek to convince the gambling industry to temporarily stop advertising to “protect people from financial harm”.
The letter, also to The Times, was signed by the Chairman of the British Medical Association Council and the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists among others.
It said that betting adverts can “drive people to gamble in the erroneous belief that they may then overcome financial hardship”.
“Too much spare time and a lack of distractions during the lockdown have placed many more people at risk of gambling beyond their means”.
It is time for the gambling industry to realign its moral compass
The letter added: “Young people are more likely to gamble after viewing gambling advertisements and have the added risk of being able to do so at any time of day or night on their mobiles.
“It is time for the gambling industry to realign its moral compass and show that it is prepared to take the necessary steps to do so by banning all advertisements until the end of the lockdown.”
Earlier this month, it was revealed that gamblers searching for mobile apps to help their addiction were bombarded with adverts tempting them to bet instead.
Following new regulations, gambling using credit cards is now banned. Online gamblers can now only bet using debit cards or cash deposited into an account.