Bosses at the UK’s biggest online gambling firms must provide regular updates on how they are tackling problem gambling during the coronavirus lockdown, the Government has said.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has written to the chief executives of Bet365, Ladbrokes owner GVC, Sky Bet, William Hill and Betfair Paddy Power owner Flutter.
Ministers are concerned that with the public stuck at home with more time to play, it could increase problem gambling.
Culture minister Nigel Huddleston, who wrote the letter, added that he will host a virtual roundtable on the issue and ways to support organisations during the lockdown.
He also requested regular and comprehensive internal data around online gambling habits as a result of the ongoing lockdown measures and to ensure safer gambling messaging is more prominent.
The latter action comes after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it had seen a jump in gambling-related complaints since the start of the epidemic, with the DCMS requesting more information.
Mr Huddleston also said the Government would look at whether current regulations and voluntary measures by the industry are “sufficient to prevent an increase in gambling-related harm”, although he said there is “no firm evidence” for an increase currently.
Concerns remain, however, as the Gambling Commission recently revealed it has seen an increase in visits and bets around online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports, following the cancellation of most live sport and the closure of all high street betting shops.
The Commission has previously said online casino players are three times more likely to be problem gamblers than those taking part in general sports betting.
Mr Huddleston said: “Whilst overall gambling participation has fallen in recent weeks and the industry has made notable contributions to support the national response, we must take proactive steps now, and keep these measures under review.
“I expect patterns of play to be closely monitored so we can move quickly if there is any evidence of problem gambling increasing. I also want more to be done to promote responsible gambling during the pandemic.”