Rise in gambling self exclusions in the UK 

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Rise in gambling self exclusions in the UK 

There has been a rise in the number of gamblers trying to block themselves from using online casinos and bookmakers in Great Britain after a surge in internet betting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Guardian reports that Gamstop, Great Britain’s national self-exclusion scheme for people wrestling with their gambling, recorded a 21 per cent increase in new exclusions during February.

The number of people who have signed up is on the verge of reaching 200,000, including 326 new registrations on February 22, a record for a single day since the service was launched in 2018.

Gamstop said the increase in efforts to avoid gambling appeared to have followed a rise in online betting volumes during November and December.

It said this indicated that “the trend towards more online gambling may be leading to more vulnerable individuals choosing to exclude themselves from all sites.”

More people than ever may have signed up to the scheme, but Gamstop’s figures also demonstrate the difficulty that many people have in staying away from gambling.

In January 2021, 49,328 people out of a possible 177.038 attempted to gamble and were stopped from doing so by their registration with Gamstop, which allows people to shut themselves out of internet gambling for a defined period.

The organisation said this showed that blocking software was not a “silver bullet”.

“With the rate of registrants continuing to rise, I would urge anybody putting self exclusion from online gambling in place through Gamstop to also seek treatment,” the organisation’s chief executive Fiona Palmer said.

“Awareness around self-exclusion schemes and blocking software has been increasing throughout the last year, and it’s important that we continue to spread the message about what help is available to those who need it most.”

Matt Blanks, a project manager at Peer Aid, a scheme that helps people who are addicted to gambling, began betting aged 11.

He lost more than 700,000 pounds and tried to take his own life.

He said being able to block himself from all online operators at once had been a lifesaver.

“It gives you that moment’s pause, that bit of breathing space, to ensure that when you have an urge or impulse, you can’t place a bet in that moment,” he said.

“That time to reflect can make all the difference.”

People with a gambling disorder are disproportionately likely to be male, but Gamstop has recorded an increasing number of women registering during lockdown.

The number of women who have self-excluded reached 50,000 recently and the gender split is 71 per cent male, 29 per cent female.

People aged between 18 and 34 are the most likely to use the service, accounting for 59 per cent of all registrants.

The figures come after evidence gathering for the government’s gambling review ended last week.

In its submission, Gamstop said there had been a rise in the number of websites publishing links to black market betting operations that are not signed up to the blocking service.

Membership of the scheme is a condition of being licensed to offer gambling legally in Great Britain.

Online gambling surge amid UK lockdown 

Britons stuck at home due to coronavirus are hitting the online casinos, providing a boost for operators of virtual games such as blackjack and roulette.

Bloomberg reported in March that 888 Holdings Plc said Tuesday it’s seen increased customer activity in the casino and poker operations that make up the majority of its revenue, echoing comments made on March 19 by gambling technology firm Playtech.

The “encouraging” update from 888 reinforces the view that gambling companies can mitigate losses arising from the cancellation of sporting events.

Gavin Kelleher, an analyst at broker Goodbody, said in a note.

888 got about 15 per cent of revenue from sports betting in 2018.

888 stock soared as much as 38 per cent Tuesday, the most ever, paring a plunge that followed widespread postponement of sports from soccer to horse racing as well as broader concerns about the virus’s impact on the economy.

The shares are down 33 per cent in the year, much less than the 77 per cent drop for bookmaker William Hill, which relies more on sports.

Among 888’s closest peers, Gamesys Group Plc has risen about 32 per cent since the firm said March 17 it’s seeing “good momentum across the business”.

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