Despite the UK Gambling Commission having recently reminded online gambling operators of their duties to protect vulnerable people and minors from being harmed by gambling, particularly while the majority of the British public are now spending significantly more time at home due to the current lockdown, some online gambling operators are continuing to “flood” social media sites with targeted ads.
MPs, addiction specialists, and health professionals have criticised several adverts which have appeared on platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram over fears that they could entice problem gamblers to fall prey to special offers such as welcome bonuses and free spins.
The NHS mental health director, Claire Murdoch, told one UK newspaper that “these tactics are shameless”. She also called them “predatory” and said that they “need to stop”.
Recent studies carried out by the UK Gambling Commission show that around 10% of people who use online bingo, casino, and slots sites are problem gamblers compared to 2.5% of those who wager on sports betting.
Carolyn Harris, who is the Labour MP for Swansea East and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour, as well as Chair of the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, says she has been contacted by dozens of people who believe they have been targeted by online gambling operators despite having kicked the habit several years ago.
In late March, just two days after the government announced its UK-wide lockdown measures, the Chief Executive of the UKGC, Neil McArthur, issued an open letter to online gambling operators via the UK Gambling Commission website. The message included sections entitled “marketing must be conducted responsibly” and “consumer protection must be paramount”. Plus, Mr McArthur said that if the Commission noticed “irresponsible behaviour”, it would “step in immediately”.
The Gambling Commission has also published advice for the general public on how gambling companies should keep them safe while betting online.