So, the World Cup has drawn to a close, and France are the champions. While I congratulate them, it seems hardly appropriate to offer England any commiserations, for their semi-final defeat to Croatia – the eventual runners-up – has seen them overachieve quite significantly. Their progress sparked off a surge in optimism in the general public, one marked by an increase in gambling on the tournament.
A recent Bloomberg article found that the British spent an estimated £2.5 billion during the tournament, a figure 50% larger than for the previous tournament. Apart from England playing reasonable football again, another contributing factor to this increase must likely be, as Bloomberg also conclude, the prevalence of gambling advertising generally, but particularly how often it is broadcast in the midst of a big sporting event.
The UK’s gambling market is comfortably Europe’s largest, with gross revenues of $5.7 billion. It has risen to such prominence due in part to the influence of gambling related advertising, but also the UK’s permissive gambling regulation. But there is something of a change in the air, with the Advertising Standards Authority receiving 115 complaints over the frequency of gambling adverts during Russia 2018, a figure which dwarfs the still notable 27 it received in the previous month on the same topic.
The Guardian are seeing that such concerns receive an airing in the popular press, with their data showing that gambling related adverts led a field of 18 categories in screen time during ITV’s World Cup coverage. Articles such as this are not intended to denigrate gambling, but to protect those who are prone to its targeted advertising. Problem gamblers and children are the demographics considered most worthy of protection from overwhelming levels of gambling advertising, and I am sure that all of us would welcome measures which ensure neither group are preyed upon.
To that end, I am encouraged that some providers are embracing their duty to social responsibility, with changes to certain operators’ terms and conditions (T&C’s) showing a commitment to the protection of children, young persons and other vulnerable people from harm or exploitation, along with an equal expectation that any related affiliates also act accordingly. I founded NoWagering on this premise, as I am intent on providing gamers with a reliable resource containing only operators who shy away from profiting from complex and unfair T&C’s and other misleading practices.
Paramount within these are wagering requirements, which have been a murky area for too long, especially with regard to free spins. In practice, free spins with high wagering requirements amount to little more than demo credit. Since they have no monetary bonus, the wagering requirement – which is often not clearly explained to a user in advance of their participation – is applied to any winnings, making the prospect of keeping the winnings unlikely. There is a dedicated free spins with no wagering section on NoWagering, and it is one which really does live up to the name, as only offers with wager-free winnings will feature there.
More operators are now adopting a similar approach to both their conduct and that of affiliates, and the abuse of terms such as ‘free spins’, ‘free cash’ or the misuse of the word ‘free’ in general are being advocated against in the more transparent and fair T&C’s they are becoming increasingly compelled to produce and adhere to. It is incumbent upon all relevant parties to not portray, condone or encourage gambling behaviour that might lead to financial, social or emotional harm, and I am delighted that the rights of users are now taking centre stage. I hope that we, as a combined industry, can remove the prohibitive extent and regularity of unfair terms and exclusions, and put an end to the belief that such devices are standard industry practice.
Such mistaken beliefs are contributors to very troubling impressions of the gambling industry held by people surveyed by the Gambling Commission (GC) in a recent landmark report. Raising Standards for consumers: Enforcement report 2017-2018 describes the action it has taken during that time frame to penalise operators it considered were not putting the interests of their users first, and sets out their expectations of operators in restoring the public’s trust and confidence in gambling. Their own research shows that 78% of respondents believe there are too many opportunities to gamble, so anticipating The Guardian’s own research, while 69% feel the activity is dangerous to family life. As a proponent of safe online gambling and the fair treatment of such users, I am very pleased that the GC’s message is getting through to operators, as a change in their culture will be of benefit to all.
Author Bio: Pavlos Sideris is Founder of NoWagering, the only dedicated resource of low wagering casinos, bonuses and free spins.