The Gambling Commission has announced that all online gambling operators must participate in the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP.
The scheme that has been developed for the online sector will allow consumers to self-exclude from online operators with one request rather than from each operator individually. With over 200 online operators this will make access to self-exclusion much simpler for those who wish to be prevented from online gambling.
Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission Chief Executive, said: “By 31st March all online operators will be required to participate in the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme. Although the vast majority of operators are already participating in GAMSTOP this will make the coverage comprehensive.
“We welcome the fact that GAMSTOP have got to this stage in their development and encourage them to continue to improve their offer, particularly in relation to preventing those who have self-excluded being targeted by direct marketing.
“It is important that self-exclusion schemes are as effective as possible and they will be most effective when used in combination with other blocking tools such as gambling blocking software and payment card blocking.
“Operators must do everything they can to minimise the risk of gambling related harm. That is why we expect the industry to create safe products, know their customers, understand what they can afford to gamble with and identify when they are experiencing harm and step in.
“It is also vital that people experiencing gambling harm are able to access the support or treatment they need. This forms part of our ongoing work with our partners to implement the National Strategy for Reducing Gambling Harms.”
Last year Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) ministers also met with banks and gambling operators to discuss their growing concerns, and how companies could use technology and customer data to help those at risk of developing gambling problems, including those using credit cards.
Culture Minister Helen Whately added: “We have been clear to all businesses that have connections to gambling, such as operators, social media platforms and banks, that they must be socially responsible and use the power of technology and data to help consumers manage their spending and protect them from harm.
“I have been encouraged by the majority of major high street banks introducing measures to allow customers to switch off spending on gambling through mobile apps.
“By making it a regulatory requirement for all online gambling websites licensed in Great Britain to sign up to Gamstop. I am confident that people who have taken the significant step to opt out of gambling will be well supported, alongside a wide range of other tools.”
In the last two years the Commission has also introduced and strengthened new rules in relation to age verification. This also includes additional online protections and restrictions to play-for-free games, a tightening of rules around gambling advertising, improvements to guidance for the data operators must provide to consumers, and updated guidance in relation to identifying markers of harm.
A statement from Fiona Palmer, chief executive of GAMSTOP:
“We are delighted that the Gambling Commission has today announced that integration with GAMSTOP will become a licence condition for online operators by March 31st.
We have been working very hard for the last two years to ensure that GAMSTOP becomes a trusted, secure and independent service that helps anyone who has an issue with their gambling to exclude themselves from the majority of online sites. More than 118,000 people have already used GAMSTOP to exclude themselves from online gambling for either six months, a year or five years, and today’s announcement recognises the progress that we have made.
We will continue to work closely with the regulator, operators and charities to ensure that we are providing a straightforward, effective self-exclusion scheme for consumers. We understand that, for anyone experiencing issues with their gambling, self-exclusion may not offer a complete solution and is only one tool amongst a range of measures that might need to be deployed. We take care when anyone contacts us via our helpline or through the further support section of our website to refer anyone requiring specialist help to independent providers with the appropriate expertise.
We are confident that the launch of GAMSTOP as a one-stop self-exclusion scheme for all licensed operators will allow us to grow the service significantly and to provide greater protection to consumers”.