Gambling: Coronavirus

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 21st May 2020.

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Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps he is taking to tackle the increase in gambling on online casino games since the covid-19 lockdown.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

We have made clear that it expects operators to be aware of the potential for increased risk of gambling harm during lockdown and to ensure that they act responsibly to protect customers. On 12 May the Gambling Commission published data which indicated that, while the majority of people are gambling the same amount or less than they did previously, there was an increase in the number of people playing certain online gambling products, including casino games (13%), when figures for March 2019 were compared to those for March 2020. We can not yet be sure how much of this growth is directly attributable to lockdown or is substitution from land-based gambling products.

Online gambling operators must comply with the existing strict requirements for the protection of children and vulnerable people. These have been further strengthened over the past year, with a ban on credit card gambling online (including via e-wallets) and compulsory integration of online operators to GAMSTOP, the online self exclusion scheme. The Gambling Commission has now issued COVID-19 specific guidance for operators aimed at strengthening protections for vulnerable people even further during the lockdown period. This includes requirements to prevent customers reversing withdrawals from their account, to cease offering bonuses or promotions to customers who are displaying indicators of gambling harms, to interact with customers who have been playing continually for an hour, and to monitor customer activities and compare these to pre-lockdown play to identify those who may be at risk. The Commission will take action against operators who fail to act responsibly and we. will continue to monitor the situation closely.

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