Reports in the UK media suggest that gambling companies are falling short of their obligations on social responsibility during the coronavirus lockdown.
Gamblers looking for mobile apps to assist with overcoming their addiction have apparently been targeted with adverts offering opportunities to bet. According to one report, Ladbrokes Casino, Virgin Games Casino and 888 Casino featured among the top sponsored results on Apple’s App Store when a reporter entered search requests including ‘gambling help’.
Speaking about the report, the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, Carolyn Harris said that it confirmed their worst fears:
“The industry needs to wake up to reality, and regulators need to stop sitting on their hands because when this pandemic is over these firms will be held accountable for any damage done to vulnerable gamblers.”
According to the report, which first appeared in a UK tabloid, when the phrase ‘gambling help’ was entered into the App Store search engine, a Virgin Games advert offering free spins was the top of the results. A similar search for ‘gambling stop’ brought up an advert from 888 Casino, which was offering an £88 bonus inducement to new customers.
The report comes soon after the Government’s announcement that protecting young and vulnerable people from gambling harm during the coronavirus lockdown was a priority. Last month, the Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur, issued a warning to gambling operators that they had to uphold social responsibility rules as increasing numbers of people would be likely to turn to online gambling as a result of isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak.
But doubts were raised by politicians over the UKGC’s ability to bring operators into line when the organisation announced that they were losing a number of full-time jobs due to budget constraints. The Government has already announced that they are going to be re-examining the 2005 Gambling Act, and operators are bracing themselves for further reforms in the coming months.