The betting industry is under fire for using “predatory” tactics to tempt back former gambling addicts during the lockdown.
Firms are offering welcome bonuses of up to £1,500 via social media, and Gamblers Anonymous reports that a number of ex-addicts have received emails from companies “trying to lure them back, with offers of free bets”.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s National Mental Health Director, said: “These tactics are shameless. They are predatory and need to stop.”
‘Below the belt’
The top mental health nurse said she is “not easily shocked”, but reports of firms deliberately targeting ex-punters and “attempting to exploit them again during the coronavirus is below the belt even for an industry whose moral compass is so consistently off”.
These tactics are shameless. They are predatory and need to stop.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) claim that measures are taken to ensure firms do not take advantage of the vulnerable isolated at home, but have promised new checks “to ensure that people are betting within their means”.
Following the pressure, Britain’s largest gambling firms have now promised to end all television and radio gambling advertising for six weeks.
Advertising slots will be donated to charities, replaced by safer gambling messages or removed.
The BGC said firms will “look to implement this change as rapidly as possible but no later than Thursday May 7”. Chief Executive Michael Dugher added: “I hope now that other major gambling operators like the National Lottery follow our lead.”
SNP spokesman John Nicolson urged the Government to take further action.
He asked it to “call upon gambling companies to provide clear and prominent COVID-19 addiction warnings on betting site pages” and to “impose an ongoing suspension on gambling advertising beyond the end of the current lockdown period”.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that gamblers searching for mobile apps to help their addiction were bombarded with adverts tempting them to continue betting instead.
When searching for “gambling stop” and “block gambling” on Apple’s App Store, Daily Mail reporters found promotions for Ladbrokes Casino, 888 Casino, and Virgin Games Casino listed as top results.