With the United Kingdom beginning to relax its lockdown restrictions and new research showing an overall fall in gambling participation during the lockdown, the Gambling Commission has today introduced new restrictions on the regulated industry.

The new guidance follows the Commission publishing data showing the impact that COVID-19 is having on consumers and the industry so far.

This data shows that 0.2 per cent of UK adults have started gambling for the first time during the lockdown, compared to 1.8 per cent who have stopped gambling altogether. More people have also reduced the amount of money spent on gambling than those that have increased spending, with the same true for the amount of time spent gambling.

The Gambling Commissions says that while there is no evidence to suggest an increase in problem gambling, the shift in the market as a result of COVID-19 shows an increase in the use of certain gambling products such as online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports.

This can be explained by the lack of sporting events to bet on, which has resulted in players switching their spend to other gambling products, including the National Lottery.

One of the factors driving the new restrictions appears to be the longer play sessions reported by a minority of players, which could be explained by the switch to more time-consuming games such as online poker and virtual sports.

The new guidance includes additional affordability checks, blocking customers from changing their mind about making withdrawals, and restrictions on bonus offers, with online operators expected to introduce them as soon as possible and for the duration of the lockdown.

“Operators must use the data they hold to protect their customers and now, more than ever, it’s vital that online operators really know their customers by monitoring how long they are playing for and understanding how financial uncertainty is impacting them and what they can afford to gamble with,” said UKGV chief executive Neil McArthur.

“To ensure operators do that, we are strengthening our guidance and expect operators to take account of that to prevent bonus offers or inducements being offered to customers who are showing any sign of harm.”

The government’s Minister for Sports, Tourism and Heritage, Nigel Huddleston, said of the new restrictions: “It is vital that people are protected from the threat of gambling related harm and I welcome these latest steps from the Gambling Commission. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will not hesitate to take further action if required.”

Some of the new rules introduced today will also be subject to a consultation later in the month, ahead of their potential introduction as permanent regulations.

Sweden recently introduced coronavirus-related restrictions on the online gambling industry in response to a perceived increase in risk, which operators say lacks evidence and will serve to drive players to unregulated providers.

Gaming Intelligence

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