Gamstop, the UK’s online gambling self-exclusion scheme, has urged people worried about their gambling while at home during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown to exclude from all igaming sites to protect themselves from harm.
Some MPs have raised concerns that the enforced lockdown could see people turn to online gambling as a distraction, and this could in turn lead to a rise in related harms. The Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group has urged operators to introduce a £50 daily gambling limit for players, to be enforced throughout the crisis.
However, Gamstop chief executive Fiona Palmer has taken this a step further by recommending that consumers with concerns about their habits self-exclude from all online gambling sites for at least the duration of the lockdown.
“We are concerned that, at a time when so many people are being forced to stay at home during the coronavirus, vulnerable consumers who may have an issue with their gambling might be tempted to spend money they do not have on online gambling,” Palmer said.
“People generally come to us when they realise that excluding themselves from all online gambling is the first step they need to take to provide the necessary breathing space to tackle their issues with gambling.
“Self-exclusion is just one tool in a suite of services; we work closely with charities, such as GamCare, who offer specialist treatment, as well as with banks who provide financial blocking options to their customers and with providers of device blocking software.”
Gamstop said it issued the call as, since lockdown came into force on 23 March, it has seen a spike in requests from registered users trying to end their self-exclusion before their chosen period expired so they could begin gambling again.
By registering with Gamstop, consumers can choose to restrict themselves from all UK-licensed sites for a period of six months, a year or five years. However, once registered with the service, users are unable to cancel their self-exclusion until the end of their chosen period.
Gamstop's intervention comes after the Gambling Commission last week published advice for players to help them keep their gambling under control during the pandemic, while the regulator also released guidance for licensed operators to keep customers safe.
In addition, standards body the Betting and Gaming Council published a ten-point plan for its members to follow and protect players from harm during lockdown.