MPs urge online gambling operators to act responsibly during Covid-19 outbreak

Covid-19 Gambling

MPs have suggested that online betting firms impose a daily £50 cap on gambling until the Covid-19 outbreak is over.

Operators have been promoting different betting markets, in the absence of mainstream sporting events.

Looking for new revenue sources

Considering the importance of sports betting for many operators, it’s unsurprising that many have sought to leverage what they can.

An internal email sent by William Hill, which was seen by The Guardian newspaper, told staff to “talk to your customers about what other things they can bet on – table tennis and Japanese baseball are proving very popular”.

From its US-facing social Twitter account, the company also promoted what it called “international soccer action”. By this, it meant the Belarussian Premier League.

Elsewhere, operators have been encouraging players to engage with their virtual sports and casino games.

Is it an ethical issue?

Rather than bemoaning brands for getting creative, it seems that some are concerned about the possibility of players being lured into riskier wagers.

32Red, for example, has been advertising on Twitter in relation to its online casino games. According to The Guardian, these are responsible for higher addiction rates than sports betting.

Meanwhile, William Hill came under fire from one Barcelona-based man who set up a FIFA tournament. He sent their Spanish Twitter account a message, in which he asked them to stop.

Experts have warned about the combination of gambling addiction and having to stay at home for the outbreak’s duration. They have said that these individuals are going to be prone on betting on events where they are unable to estimate the outcome.

Meanwhile, Labour’s Carolyn Harris argued that if players are being targeted to bet on obscure sports and virtual matches, “it can it can only be because that person is someone with a problem”.

Plea from MPs 

MPs in a cross-party group have sent a letter to the Betting and Gaming Council. In this, they asked operators to not put player safety below their finances.

Harris, along with Ronnie Cowan of the SNP and the Conservative Party’s Iain Duncan Smith, said the following.

“We are deeply concerned that as we go deeper into this crisis, more and more people will turn to online gambling as a distraction.

“If the industry were to self-impose a daily limit of £50 … it would be a clear demonstration that the industry is willing to act responsibly and do what they can to protect society and peoples’ finances, at this dreadful time.”

Furthermore the trio asked for customers to be blocked from opening more than one account, in addition to faster intervention for potential problem gamblers.