s reported by The Guardian in an article published Sunday, the UK Gambling Commission has finally green-lighted ‘Gamstop’ a system that allows problem gamblers to block themselves from all UK betting websites in one go.
Developed by the trade body for online casinos and bookmakers, the self-exclusion system for problem gamblers have to be signed up by all gambling companies as a condition of their license to operate in the UK.
The UK regulator is expected to announce the requirement as soon as this week, the Guardian says, after satisfying itself that concerns about the scheme’s effectiveness have been dealt with.
Earlier investigations, including by the Guardian, revealed flaws in the self-exclusion scheme which allowed problem gamblers to bypass self-imposed blocks.
In May last year, five months after Gamstop’s unofficial launch, the commission warned the industry trade body, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), of specific failings in the system.
The commission said it was concerned that Gamstop did not synchronize its list of registered users with companies’ promotional mailing lists. This meant that addicts who signed up in an effort to curb their habit might still be bombarded with direct marketing emails. Such promotional emails have been a common feature of several regulatory rulings against gambling companies including Sky Bet and LeoVegas.
In a letter obtained by the Guardian at the time, the commission’s executive director, Tim Miller, said he was “yet to see proper evidence of the effectiveness” of Gamstop. He told the RGA that it was “unacceptable that currently Gamstop does not interact with marketing lists in that way”.
Around 99% of gambling operators in the UK are understood to have committed themselves to using Gamstop already and those that do not will risk losing their license to operate. Users of Gamstop, which is up and running but does not yet have the backing of the commission, are believed to number in their tens of thousands already.
Official approval of GamStop comes amid a broader push by campaigners, the Labour party and even the commission itself to tighten up regulation of online gambling, after curbs were imposed on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in high street bookmakers.
Measures under discussion include a ban on betting with credit cards. Labour has called for legislation to replace the Gambling Act 2005, put in place by Tony Blair’s Labour government before an explosion of online casinos and bookmakers.