Between November and December 2020, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) carried out a consultation. After reviewing the thousands of responses it received, the regulator chose not to prioritise the implementation of affordability checks.
With the 2005 Gambling Act review well underway, many within the industry are discussing what can be done to better-protect players. But away from banning sponsorships of this kind within sport and some of the other measures that have been mentioned, the answer might be a little simpler.
In this article, we’ll discuss how the UKGC can protect players – even if it chooses not to implement soft and hard affordability checks.
Let players make more of a choice
On the surface, mandatory affordability checks seem like a no-brainer. But while they will be useful for stopping some individuals from spending too much, others may find these restrictions suffocating.
If players feel like regulators are trying to control them too much, the industry runs the risk of channelisation rates dropping. Unregulated sportsbooks and casinos will not play fairly with deposit limits and if something goes wrong, they’re unlikely to care about player safety.
For the majority of players who enjoy gambling safely, they should have more of a choice about how much they wager. Since the UKGC said that it will focus on intervening more with at-risk customers, this is something we expect to happen.
Understand better why problem gambling happens in the first place
Behind every addiction is a deeper-lying issue that causes it. Dependencies on gambling, alcohol, food – it doesn’t matter. These problems could signify personal traumas, stress, or something else.
Like with every physical and mental illness, prevention is preferable to cure. To address gambling-related harms in the UK, the UKGC must understand why people chose to spend excessive amounts of money.
If treatment can focus on that, individuals will have better tools to stop these problems from happening again.
Another possible idea is for the gambling sector to fund education looking at what causes such issues. If people are taught from an early age to figure out what may put them at a higher risk, they’ll have better tools to tackle the issue.
Encourage education about personal finance
Besides looking at gambling itself, it’s important to look at people’s mindset towards money. No matter how much someone earns, they will find a way to spend it if they aren’t given the right financial education.
When offering support for gambling-related harms, helping people create better financial plans is also essential. The UKGC should consider how it can help people to set some of their disposable income aside for gambling, if they want to, while making sure that they cover their essential bills.
The Commission could achieve this in several ways. For example, some of operators’ donations could go towards funding workshops and webinars.
Affordability checks could be useful, but they won’t solve everything
Even if the UKGC chooses to implement affordability checks, tackling gambling-related harms will involve a lot more work. Educating players about why gambling addiction happens in the first place is essential, as is helping them to understand personal finance better.
While treatment is essential, stopping the issues before they happen is also important. If operators implement affordability checks, but people don’t understand what’s causing them to gamble excessively, there is a chance that players will look to play at unlicensed sites instead, putting them at considerable risk.