Restrictions aimed at the gambling sector during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could be doing more harm than good, according to a leading gambling industry body.
The Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EBGBA) Maarten Haijer said that some of the measures taken in European countries had not been evidence based. Citing the example of deposit limits that have been imposed on operators in Belgium, Haijer said that such measures could lead to an increase in the use of black market betting sites.
Haijer was giving his views after data from across the European sector suggesting that there had not been an explosion of online gambling during the lockdown, regardless of whether new restrictions were introduced. Haijer said that while he thought that most of the measures were well intentioned and partially introduced to reassure citizens, they could have a negative effect:
“However, the majority of restrictions introduced are not evidence-based and could do more harm than good by making black-market websites even more attractive to play on, compared to licensed and regulated ones. These black- market websites are hosted and run from outside the EU and apply hardly any social responsibilities to their customers…”
EGBA had predicted a decline in the levels of gambling in Europe at the start of the pandemic due to the halting of most major sports competitions, given that betting accounts for around 44% of EGBA members’ total revenues from online betting. It also cited data from Belgium, where it has been reported that traffic to all regulated sites has dropped by 38%. This follows the introduction of a new weekly deposit limit of €500 affecting players at all licensed websites. This was brought into effect in April, though it had been planned prior to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Denmark, which has not introduced new rules, has reported a 60% drop in online gambling at a time when land-based casinos have been closed. Sweden, which has not yet implemented new proposed restrictions, has seen a 6% drop in online gambling. And in the UK, the UKGC found that 67% of UK citizens had not gambled during the pandemic, and of those who had gambled, around 75% had not spent more money or time on gambling than usual.
Haijer has called on betting operators to employ their expertise to promote safe gambling, suggesting that this would be a better strategy than government intervention.