The GamStop self-exclusion scheme is not yet fully launched in the UK and the criticism has already started. The Guardian claims to have seen a letter (Regulator unconvinced by industry problem-gambling measure, 18 May 2018) in which the UK Gambling Commission warns the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) of failings in the GamStop self-exclusion scheme.
Since inception, it has been known that it is a difficult project to complete, bearing in mind all the data protection, legal and IT implications of such a database. The lack of a national ID card in the UK also adds to the difficulty. Another complication for GamStop is the level of wilful deception to which self-excluded gamblers are prepared to go.
This issue was highlighted by an interview with Sky Betting and Gaming CEO Richard Flint in EGR Intel #168 (May 2018). Flint explained the loophole in the company’s system which enabled excluded gamblers to open duplicate accounts:
1. A customer self-excludes using the service provided by the operator.
2. The operator has a system which prevents self-excluded customers from opening a duplicate account with the same details.
3. The system checked details at the point of registration.
4. But a self-excluded customer could open a new account with false details.
5. These false details would not pass verification.
6. If the customer then called the customer contact centre and claimed the details were entered incorrectly, they could have them updated with the correct (and self-excluded) details.
7. The weakness being exploited was that the system did not then check for duplicate accounts when the details were updated via the contact centre.
The Guardian has already tested the system using changes in surnames to circumvent the self-exclusion and claimed it “proved easy to register with several websites simply by changing the surname on the account”.
Even once the GamStop scheme is fully launched, there will be further examples of problem gamblers able to get round the GamStop sector-wide self-exclusion. This is inevitable if the problem gamblers the scheme is designed to help are determined to be deceitful and dishonest in the details they provide. As GBGC has argued before, a commitment to curb your problem gambling also requires self-discipline, personal responsibility and a willingness to change behaviour on the part of the individual.