UKGC Warns Against Complacency as Coronavirus Causes Online Activity to Spike

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Now is the time for online gaming operators to stay focused and stick to the rules rather than getting greedy, says Neil McArthur, chairman of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC.

UKGC Neil McArthur
UKGC chair Neil McArthur is warning online operators not to break the rules in efforts to take advantage of a coronavirus-induced upswing. (Image: UKGC/Twitter)

As the new coronavirus forces people out of brick-and-mortar venues, business is on the up for Britain’s online operators.

However, with great opportunity come great responsibility and McArthur warns that regulatory infractions won’t be tolerated.

Coronavirus Lockdown Leads to More Activity Online

In a week that’s seen Prime Minister Boris Johnson lock down the UK, the internet has become the go-to medium for entertainment.

Grosvenor Poker recently reported a surge of activity, and the statistics show similar upswings across the board. According to data supplied by PokerScout, PokerStars’ daily cash game peak in December 2019 was 8,710. On March 26, the total number of cash game players was 9,061.

Business is booming and the time is ripe for online gaming operators to strike. However, in a time of plenty, McArthur is calling for vigilance. With more children forced to stay home, the UKGC leader is concerned about underage gambling.

“Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling has always been a major priority. and we are very mindful – as you should be – of the fact that the risks of harm arising from online gambling have increased as a result of recent events,” reads his statement released on Thursday.

Prior to coronavirus outbreak, underage gambling was a major focus for both the UKGC and the British government. As a commitment to tackling the issue, a new initiative was announced in mid-March.

Through the Department of Education, the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) program will introduce new classes designed to teach children about the negative effects of gambling. The initiative plays into broader efforts designed to protect children across the UK.

However, with normal service currently on hold, officials believe a more direct form of action is required.

UKGC Will Help, Infractions Won’t be Tolerated

As Brits are forced into isolation, McArthur has reminded licensees of the need to know their customers. The overarching aim being to protect children and the vulnerable.

“We expect you to be very mindful that customers may be vulnerable and experiencing financial uncertainty, whilst others may be experiencing other effects of being isolated including, for example, feelings of anxiety, loneliness or boredom,” the update continues.

McArthur also used the update to reassure operators that the UKGC is working to protect their interests. Although online platforms are enjoying an upswing, live venues have been forced to shut.

With no end to the social distancing restrictions in sight, the losses could, potentially, destroy businesses. As the UK’s gaming regulator, the UKGC is liaising with industry leaders and is relaying their concerns to the government.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has authorized a £330 billion/$385 billion emergency budget for British businesses, but even with that assistance from the government, the live gaming sector will suffer due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The UKGC is working to mitigate those losses, but as McArthur said, efforts to keep the industry alive shouldn’t come at the expense of consumer safety.

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