Former Gambling Addicts Share Experience With House of Lords

Last month, four former gambling addicts appeared before a Select Committee of the House of Lords as it conducted more evidence into the Gambling Industry’s social and economic effects on UK society.

On Tuesday, October 8, individuals shared with the Committee chaired by Lord Grade of Yarmouth their experiences with gambling, offering insight into their path towards “problem gambling.”

The group of gamblers outlined underage relationships to fruit machines or betting with school friends or family members before sharing their experiences as their addictions to gambling grew. It involved making use of convenient access to loans from credit. One addict, whose first adult job was as a police officer, explained that, despite having a history of “payday gambling,” he secured a £ 5,000 loan using his mobile phone in less than five minutes.

The Committee would question access to loan facilities, focusing on how victims could “get around systems” and gamble.

One gambler said: Only one of the nine companies did an affordability check, and that was after spending £440,000”. Another, with a criminal past, said he was required to provide verification of “source of funds” for the first time in 2015, despite a total of £ 1.8 m in gambling.

The Committee also addressed the panel on VIP services, with the majority saying that they were classified as VIP clients without background checks, even with their spending habits showing that they were payday gamblers.

One gambler called operator VIP services as”simply grooming,” adding that “none of them do proper checks when excessive money is being spent.”

Discussing access to self-exclusion systems for consumers, the panel criticised GamStop for restricting self-exclusion to a five-year period without a permanent option.

With each being self-excluded, the gamblers said they could still engage with gambling companies using various IDs, and they would still be engaged in endless gambling communications generated by affiliate marketing websites and TV ads.

The UK Gambling Commission also came in for criticism, as the criminal convicted panellist said he had written to the regulator admitting he had stolen £ 1.8 m – but was told he could not have been helped as he had moved overseas to escape his troubles.

“Surely the Gambling Commission should have shared that with all the other operators, and then maybe more damage would not have been done,” he said. “I do not hold them fully accountable, but I should not be able to outsmart an operator.”

He continued: “If you complain to the Gambling Commission, you think there will be some accountability – but there is not, so you complain to an operator and there is rarely accountability from them.

“So where do you turn if you have no money and you cannot afford a solicitor to go to court? You have nowhere to turn.”

Speaking further on regulatory frameworks, the panel said the UKGC had no accountability, stating that the regulatory authority had no interest in assisting in gamblers ‘ and betting firms ‘ disputes.

The Select Committee will continue to evaluate whether UK gambling laws need to be changed to allow major technological developments and whether licenced operators have a statutory duty to take care of their customers.