Funding boost to help problem gamblers during lockdown

Millions of pounds taken from betting operators due to their regulatory failings will be used to provide help for problem gamblers during the Covid-19 crisis, the Gambling Commission has announced.

Some £9 million drawn from regulatory settlements will be paid to GambleAware, a charity that supports initiatives to tackle gambling-related harm across the country.

The money will help ensure treatment and support services can continue to operate effectively in the face of pressures on their services caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Gambling Commission said in a statement.

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While traditional gambling vehicles such as horse racing have been unavailable during the lockdown, wagering in other areas has increased (Richard Sellers/PA)

Research undertaken by the Commission has shown gambling participation overall has gone down since Britain’s lockdown began, due to the cancellation of sporting events and the closure of gambling venues.

However, the research shows there has been an increase in the use of certain gambling vehicles, such as online slot machines, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports.

“In the current climate, and with the potential risks to British consumers in mind, we have fast-tracked this settlement-driven funding to GambleAware so their work to prevent gambling harms and award grants can continue seamlessly,” Commission chairman William Moyes said.

“In addition to a tough and flexible regulatory system, it’s vital that organisations such as GambleAware and their partners can continue the great work they do, especially at times when there is an elevated risk of gambling harm with people staying at home due to social distancing measures.

“Through the use of regulatory action to prevent harm, such as the ban of credit for gambling, alongside the use of regulatory settlements to support treatment services, the Commission is taking wide ranging action to address the additional risk of harm that may come from Covid-19.”

GambleAware CEO Marc Etches welcomed the announcement.

“These funds will enable us to provide greater security around the funding of the National Gambling Treatment Service, and help keep people safe from gambling harms,” he said.

The Commission said since January alone its regulatory action has led to the industry paying £27 million in penalty packages.

The payments are levied for failings concerning anti-money laundering, social responsibility and VIP practices.

So far this year the Commission has also suspended the operating licences of four online operators for compliance-related issues.

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