Over the last 10 years, problem gambling has been on the rise. The success of online betting and the relative ease in which you can gamble pretty much anonymously have been underlining factors that have accelerated this issue within the industry. Whilst it’s a huge problem for both the government and now that of bookmakers, the fact that the industry is now doing more than it ever has means that positive steps are starting to be taken. There would be little argument that there is a long way to go, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.
One of the ways that bookmakers and even the governing bodies surrounding problem gambling are able to limit it is by offering self-exclusion from betting sites. The process isn’t perfect, but it at least allows people that want to get help, start to get the help they need. Before we get stuck in to this article, it’s important to note that whilst we talk about betting sites for self-exclusion, the problems and process works for all parts of online gambling, which includes bingo, casino and poker. If you’ve stumbled on this article wanting info for any of those, then all of this will apply in the same manner.
What Is Self-Exclusion?
Self is exclusion from a bookmaker is where the individual is able to reach out to that bookmaker and then essentially ban them from using their platform. This means a complete ban, in that they can’t log in, place a bet or use any of the features that work with that bookmaker. A lot of bookmakers actually help the user block access to their site from a multitude of devices, including smartphones, tablets and computers.
It’s the bookmaker’s role to completely close your account and they will return any money that is linked to your account. Name, address and any ties from marketing links have to be removed from their database. It’s worth noting that self-exclusion is only triggered by the player. The bookmaker obviously are able to ban certain accounts that they think might have a problem, but then not all gambling problems are the same, so the signs may not be as clear with some accounts as others.
For example, they might have a player that bets £10,000 a week, but their salary is over £1million a year, so they can easily afford it. Whereas, another player might only be betting £50 per week, but they are on benefits, which means pretty much all of their money. Given that there are no credit checks or affordability checks with betting sites mean that it can be very hard for a bookmaker to spot a problem gambler, which is why self-exclusion is an important part of the process.
How Does It Work?
There are two ways that a player can self-exclude their betting account.
Contact the Bookmaker Directly
The first one is to contact the bookmaker directly and then get their account closed. The majority of bookmakers make this process pretty easy and you can often do it via the “accounts” section for your betting account. You likely won’t need to talk to anyone or contact them via phone or email, although they may reach out to make sure that you don’t need any further support. It’s likely at this point that you can set a timescale for how long you want your account to closed or suspended for. This can range from weeks to years to a complete closure.
It’s worth noting that bookmakers also offer the choice to limit the amount that you can spend with them. So, if a player thought they were okay with gambling, but wanted to make sure any temptation to lose more than they needed was removed, they can often cap deposit and even bet amounts on that account.
The other method is to contact a company called GAMSTOP. GAMSTOP has been created to make it easier for players to blanket ban from multiple bookmakers. A vast number of bookmakers are signed up to this, so if you self-exclude from one, you self-exclude from them all. For this you will need to go to the GAMSTOP website and then register with them. They take info such as your postcode, date of birth and email address, before using their database to first remove the player from all bookmakers registered with them and then block any future attempts to create accounts with them.
The exclusion terms for this is 6 moths, 1 year or 5 years, with the player being to decide which is best for them. After this period the self-exclusion will remain until you contact GAMSTOP and ask for it be removed. Within that time period you will not be able to change the exclusion on your account.
It is worth noting that any players that funds in the accounts will need to contact each bookmaker individually to trigger the withdrawal of their funds. This process will not be undertaken by GAMSTOP, just simply the removal of the account. The process takes just a few minutes to sign up and then the accounts will be locked within 24 hours.
The only downside that GAMSTOP has right now is that it’s not mandatory for bookmaker to join them. However, there are a huge list of bookmakers that already have and we fully believe that this will be made a necessity for licensing purposes from the UK Gambling Commission on likely other governing bodies around the world as well. Some of the bookmakers registered with GAMSTOP include:
- Paddy Power
- William Hill
What Is the Legal Requirement’s Behind Self-Exclusion?
The UK Gambling Commission have stated they require all companies licensed with them to offer self-exclusion options on their site. This needs to be under a page titled “responsible gambling” and then on that page they need to highlight the steps that need to be taken for an account to be self-excluded.
But, in terms of policing the problem, the UKGC admit that it’s very tough to do so. People can relatively easily set up new accounts under friends and family members name, plus they can also get access to bookmakers that are registered with GAMSTOP, meaning that they aren’t blanket banned in the industry.
The Gambling Commission are putting a much stronger emphasis on the bookmaker to take a key role in spotting problem gamblers and in particular, players that have self-excluded and then managed to sign back up or reactive an account. With these huge fines have been made and we talk more about some of these later in this article.
Are Players Excluded in Betting Shops, As Well?
By registering with GAMSTOP then then players will be self-excluded from betting shops as well. But, the policing of this is much tougher given that with most betting shops you don’t need an account and can simply pay cash at the desk.
For players wanting to actively ban themselves from betting shops then they will need to enter their local store and speak with one of the managers there. They will help the person fill in the correct forms and explain the process of what will happen. Obviously, if the staff has seen someone previously, they will know not to serve that person. The GAMSTOP website recommends taking a couple of passport photos for them to keep on file as this can help staff recognise players who are self-excluded.
Can You Self-Exclude for Someone Else?
As is often the case, the first people to realise that someone might have a problem are friends and family. It may be that they are wanting to do the process for someone else to help them, but the only person that can sign up for self-exclusion is the individual themselves.
That being said, other people can start the process and even assist them to work through it, which is encourage by a lot of outlets. However, the bottom line needs to be signed by the person with the gambling problem and only them.
Can You Cancel Self-Exclusion?
No. The process will remain in place for as long as was stated at the point of signing up. This could be months or even years. Within that time the status of the account cannot be changed and will not be changed. The person who has self-excluded can only reactivate accounts when the exclusion period is over and then they must manually reach out to have their account switched back on.
What Happens If You Breach Your Self-Exclusion?
As we’ve already stated, if someone is determined to gamble, then it’s going to be very hard to completely stop them from doing so. You can sign up online with some bogus info or you can enter a betting shop that you aren’t excluded from.
The first thing to do is for the player to contact the bookmaker directly and let them know what has happened. This not only allows them to help the player, but also highlights areas where security may be weak or loopholes that they weren’t aware of. The UKGC encourage players to get in touch with them directly as well. It may be that there has been more than one breach of the same type, so it’s something that needs addressing.
There are no rules put in place that the bookmaker will refund any money if a player has breached. It could be that the players account is closed, and money withheld, although this is on a case by case basis.
Additional Support for Players Outside of GAMSTOP & UKGC
Problem gambling is now a priority for government and with it they have encouraged a lot of private and charitable companies to come forward to help people not just with self-exclusion but tackling their gambling addition head on.
The first step is to start implementing controls that are going to limit the persons exposure to gambling and their ability to access said sites. Most browsers allow people to download Adblockers and blocking software, that will prevent the pop-up of any gambling related advertainments on their computer and also block out access to certain sites. You can also contact your broadband and mobile network provider to block these sites totally.
Gamban.com has been set up specifically with this in mind and not only blocks access to these sites, but also advertisements from these sites. It can be applied to both phone and computers.
There’s lots of groups and sites out there that can help people turn their lives back around and keep them away from gambling altogether. These include:
- National Gambling Helpline – 0808 8020 133
- Gamcare – Confidential online support and counselling; gamcare.org.uk
- BigDeal – Problem gambling advice for young people; bigdeal.org.uk
- Gamblers Anonymous – Online support from others that have gone through the same; gamblersanonymous.org.uk
- Gambling Therapy – Specific therapy for gamblers in rehabilitation; gamblingtherapy.org
Sometimes it’s best to talk to people outside of the industry that may be able to help with deeper underlining problems than gambling. These include:
- Samaritans – Talk about anything and everything; samaritans.org
- Papyrus – Emotional distress, young adults; papyrus-uk.org
Often gambling problems lead to money problems and can have debts outstanding as a result. These can also be the reasons why many people turn to gambling in the first place.
- National Debtline – Free debt advice – 0808 808 4000
- Stepchange – Free debt advice – 0800 138 1111
- Citizens Advice – Free advice on a range of problems, including debt; citizensadvice.org.uk
As part of the UK Gambling Commission role in making sure that valuable people aren’t able to access accounts after being self-excluded, they have created a fining system that’s in place for any bookmaker that fails to perform a proper conduct and oversight of the issue. Here are some of the highest profile to date.
888 Fined Record £7.8million
In August 2017, 888 were fined a reported £7.8 million when it was found that they had allowed more 7,000 people who had used the self-exclusion function on their site to gamble again. It was reported that one of the customers was able to make 850,000 bets, worth an estimated £1.3 million alone after flagging his account for self-exclusion.
The report stated that 888 had technical issues with their process and, as a result, over £51 million in deposits and recycled bets was wagered by the group. The story was flagged after the customer waging £1.3 million was caught stealing over £55,000 from their employer so they could gamble on the site.
From the fine, £65,000 was paid to the employer for damages, £3.5 million in deposits made back to the players was returned and then a further £4.25 million to be reinvested back into dealing with problem gambling.
SkyBet Fined £1m Penalty Package
SkyBet were fined £1 million in 2018 for similar offences. It was reported that over 700 customers who had self-excluded were able to log back in and placed more wagers, over 50,000 self-excluded customers received marketing materials after the ban and over 36,000 accounts weren’t refunded after self-exclusions had ben triggered.
The UK Gambling Commission who has administered the fine said that it was a “serious failure” on SkyBet’s part and didn’t hold true to the standard set out bt the UK Gambling Commission.
Mark Jarvis Fined £94,000
Away from online betting, high street bookmakers are still required to follow the same laws and procedures that are in place for the online industry. Mar Jarvis, a bookmaker based out of Leicestershire, was fined £94,000 when they failed to spot a problem gambler in one of their stores.
It was reported the player had lost over £34,000 on one of their B2B machines within their betting shops. It was later reported that £11,250 was stolen from the players employer to find their betting habit. The fine was sanctioned based on a failure to prevent the player from paying the machines, despite being aware of their huge losses.