Stricter ID Checks for UK Players to Strengthen Self-Exclusion

A BBC investigation reveals that people who had signed up for self-exclusion could still place bets online.

As a result of the investigation, the UK Gambling Commission will implement tougher identification practices so that self-excluded gamblers can no longer cheat the system.

The system in question is that of GAMSTOP, which launched in April 2018 with the hopes that it would allow addicts to ban themselves from online gambling sites. Since its launch, more than 50,000 UK players have signed up.

GAMSTOP is an independent self-exclusion scheme that is free for people who think they have online gambling problems. Problem players register their details and choose how long they want to be excluded for after providing a list of the sites they wish to be blocked from. Players can exclude themselves for a period of 6 months to five years.

However, BBC Radio 5 discovered that it remained easy to open an online account and continue gambling. All one was required to do was change a few small personal details.

Adam Bradford, a Sheffield man, was part of the BBC’s investigation. In 2014, Adam discovered that his father had a gambling problem when he was jailed for two years because of fraud.

His father had stolen around £50,000 from an employer to fund a habit, which cost him more than £100,000.

The new GAMSTOP branding, a self-exclusion tool for problem gamblers

GAMSTOP, a self-exclusion tool for problem gamblers.

To test the effectiveness of GAMSTOP, Adam registered himself with the scheme. A few days later Adam was able to open a new betting account by using a different email address and changing a letter in his name. upon registration, Adam was offered £50 in bonus betting funds.

Adam further looked into the ease of bypassing exclusion systems. He stated, “I think it’s scandalous, it means the hundreds of thousands of betting addicts across the country are not being protected…it doesn’t work.”

In response to the BBC story, GAMSTOP’s CEO Fiona Palmer was quick to admit that the exclusion scheme was not working as well as intended, but “GAMSTOP is working hard to improve its level of service in order to ensure that registered consumers remain confident that they are effectively excluded from those operators currently integrated with the scheme.”

Ms Palmer continued “We are taking on board the feedback and we are looking to improve the scheme.”

According to GAMSTOP’s website, the organisation is the first phase of the UK’s national online self-exclusion scheme. A large number of online gambling websites work with GAMSTOP, but not all. However, in due course, all online betting/gambling websites will be required to join by the UK Gambling Commission.

Although blanket coverage of gambling sites appears promising, critics remain sceptical of the potential effectiveness.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, a spokesperson from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling stated, “[protection] need to be multi-layered…even if GAMSTOP was completely accepted as self-exclusion it would only apply to British gambling sites and sites not licensed with the Gambling Commission would still be accessible.”

Ms Palmer stated that “Since the UK does not have a national ID scheme, matching consumers is reliant on the information they provide to GAMSTOP” and casino operator. This is the problem area that the UK Gambling Commission hopes to address with the new stricter ID checks.

Without the ID checks, the responsibility rests in the hands of the problem gamblers, who must notify GAMSTOP should they change their name or e-mail address.

GAMSTOP, however, isn’t the only self-exclusion scheme without issues.

Last year a BBC 5 live producer excluded himself from over twenty betting shops in Lincolnshire, using the Multi-Operator Self Exclusion Scheme (Moses).

He was still able to place bets at nineteen of the twenty-one sites. A year later, a different member of the BBC self-excluded himself from twenty of the same shops, but shortly after, was allowed to place bets in 15 of them.

There is cause for optimism, however, as an independent survey administered by the organisation GambleAware, found that 83% of participants thought that self-exclusion had been effective in limiting or stopping their gambling activity, and 71% stated that they had not attempted to use their nominated gambling shops since participation in the self-exclusion scheme.

GAMSTOP will work with the Gambling Commission over the next months to continue developing its service so that it can more successfully fulfil its purpose.

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