The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called on the UK Government to make child protection a priority in its forthcoming Gambling White Paper.
Chief executive Michael Dugher made the call as the BGC highlighted the work already done by the regulated industry to keep young people safe.
He said the measures were in “stark contrast” to the unsafe unregulated black market online, which has none of the safer gambling measures offered by BGC members, like strict age verification checks.
In all, 15 child protection measures have been introduced since 2019, when the BGC was established, with further measures planned in the months ahead.
They include the £10m Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, which is delivered to children, teachers and youth workers across the UK by leading safer gambling charities YGAM and GamCare.
Earlier this year, BGC members introduced new rules aimed at ensuring that children cannot view gambling ads on football clubs’ official social media accounts.
BGC members also introduced new age gating rules on advertising on social platforms, restricting the ads to those aged 25 and over for most sites.
Early results from one operator showed a 96% drop in views of social media advertisements by those aged 18–24 in the final three months of 2020, compared to the same period the year before.
The whistle to whistle ban on TV betting commercials during live sport before the watershed has led to a 97% reduction in the number of young people viewing such ads at that time.
As a further example of our members’ commitment to child protection, figures released by independent analysts Serve Legal revealed that betting shops’ record on age verification checks are better than those of supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol forecourts.
Ninety per cent of betting shops have passed “secret shopper” checks in 2021 so far, compared to 83% of convenience stores, 77% of supermarkets and 76% of petrol forecourts.
The BGC is also working with social media platforms and search companies to look at ways of allowing individuals to unsubscribe from betting ads.
The BGC is also calling on others in the regulated betting and gaming industry, and those selling products such as scratch cards in convenience stores and fruit machines in pubs, to follow the lead of betting shops in their success with independent age verification checks
In a sign that the work the BGC has done is having an impact a recent report by the Gambling Commission showed that the rate of problem gambling for 16 to 24-year-olds had fallen from 0.8% to 0.4%.
According to separate Gambling Commission data, the proportion of young people saying they had gambled in the previous seven days fell from 23% in 2011 to 11% in 2019. The regulator also found that the main forms of gambling by 11 to 16-year-olds are playing cards, private bets with friends, scratchcards and fruit machines, not with BGC members.
BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: “We strongly support the Government’s Gambling Review, which highlighted the protection of children and vulnerable people in a fair and open gambling economy as one of the Government’s main priorities. We therefore hope that child protection will be front and centre of the forthcoming white paper.
“It is clear that the steps BGC members have taken over the previous two years are now providing results.
“Nevertheless, we are not complacent, and protecting young people remains our top priority as we continue raising standards across the regulated industry.
“The BGC and our members will continue drive further changes to prevent under-18s and other vulnerable groups from being exposed to gambling advertising online.
“The regulated betting and gaming industry is determined to promote safer gambling, which is in stark contrast to the unsafe and growing online black market, which has none of the safeguards which are commonplace among BGC members.”