BGC: Gambling White Paper must ensure child protections across the board

Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC), has led industry calls for the government to place child protection at “the front and centre of the forthcoming gambling white paper”. 

Taking leadership of the BGC in 2019, Dugher outlined the sector’s unified commitment to keeping young people safe from gambling harms by the means of stricter age-verification requirements, applying advertising safeguards and raising awareness through education.

Dugher’s tenure has seen BGC members commit to 15 new child protection measures introduced since 2019 when the BGC was established to serve as the signal standards trade body for UK gambling.

Headline measures included the development of a £10m ‘Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme’, delivered to children, teachers and youth workers across the UK by safer gambling charities YGAM and GamCare.

Adhering to a new Code-of-Conduct on advertising, all BGC members have enforced age-gating controls across their online and social media coverage, ensuring that gambling content is only visible to audiences aged +25.

Early results from one operator showed a 96% drop in views of social media advertisements by those aged 18 to 24 in the final three months of 2020, compared to the same period the year before.

Meanwhile across traditional media formats, a 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.

“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.” – Dugher explained.

“It is clear that the steps BGC members have taken over the previous two years are now providing results.”

The BGC continues its work on improving advertising safeguard, collaborating with social media platforms and search companies to provide new ways for viewers to unsubscribe from betting adverts.  

Stricter age-verification requirements have been adopted by betting shops – which registered a 90% ‘secret shopper’ age check test in comparison to 83% of convenience stores, 77 % of supermarkets and 76% of petrol forecourts.

The trade body underlined that UK gambling’s protection measures would be greatly bolstered if counterparts “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”.

A recent report by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) showed that the rate of problem gambling for 16 to 24-year-olds had fallen from 0.8% to 0.4%.

Further positive results, saw a separate Commission report, outline that the proportion of young people saying they had gambled in the previous seven days fell from 23% in 2011 to 11% during 2019.

Research highlights 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.

“Our members will continue to drive further changes to prevent under-18s and other vulnerable groups from being exposed to gambling advertising online,” Dugher concluded.

“We are not complacent, and protecting young people remains our top priority as we continue raising standards across the regulated industry.”

“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.”

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