As a large portion of the world gets used to the new normal of working remotely, adapting to life on furlough or being out of work entirely, millions have been forced to develop new ‘life at home’ habits.
This could be replacing morning gym sessions with zoom exercise classes or attending company-wide meetings from the comfort of living rooms, kitchens or home offices.
However, fears have been expressed across many jurisdictions regarding the trigger of certain behaviours due to lockdown, with many asking how the gambling industry will enhance consumer protections during the current climate.
“The COVID-19 lockdown has brought a lot of challenges for people all around the world,” Daniel Dolejsi, social media and community manager at Casino Guru, said of a perceived uptake of certain habits, such as gambling and gaming.
“When it comes to gambling, extended free time means that people are increasingly turning towards online poker and casino sites, as they’re some of the only options to keep people entertained for long periods of time. More people are searching for casino games to play for free, but these ‘innocent’ habits can turn into a problem down the line.
“Additionally, as challenging economic times are expected to last longer than the lockdowns themselves, we can expect that some players will see gambling as a way of overcoming their financial difficulties, which is extremely dangerous. At Casino Guru, we always try to educate players in our articles and YouTube videos, but there are still people that will resort to this behaviour when facing financial issues.”
“We’ve definitely noticed an increase in traffic”
With consumer behaviour undoubtedly changing in recent times, Dolejsi moved on to speak of how, and where, that has been taking place: “We’ve definitely noticed an increase in traffic to the Casino Guru website when more individual countries started introducing lockdown measures in March 2020. The highest increase of visitors has been in the free game section, in which visitors can play casino games for free without having to spend money or having a chance to win anything.
“This points to the aforementioned increase of free time, which people are trying to fill by playing games of all kinds, casino games included. The increase of visitors looking for real-money gambling options has not been as significant.”
Before calling on unity from all stakeholders, from governments to operators, suppliers and consumers themselves, to combat negative behaviours that could potentially ensue: “Solely relying on one of the aforementioned groups to solve all problem gambling issues related to gambling will not be successful,” he says.
“Some individuals can’t control their gambling habits and will get into serious issues if not helped by someone (i.e. their government or a company)”
“Governments can enforce strict laws, but there will still be unscrupulous gambling companies not afraid to break the laws in order to take advantage of vulnerable players.
“Gambling companies can (and should) pay extremely close attention to the safety of their customers, but not all of them do. And even companies that create a safe gambling environment can only limit their own impact, which means that players can always find a site that will let them gamble even though it’s not safe.
“We believe that education is probably the most important factor”
“This is why we believe that all entities involved in the process are at least partially responsible. Governments should implement and enforce reasonable measures to protect players, companies should follow them or go even further if they really care about player safety, and individuals should educate themselves on the possible negative effects of gambling. However, most individuals will not look for such information by themselves, so this is largely the responsibility of companies and governments.”
Organisations worldwide have detailed various initiatives and programmes being enhanced or implemented to ensure a heightened level of player protection during recent weeks, with governments and regulators also flexing their muscles to varying degrees of success.
“We believe that education is probably the most important factor,” Dolejsi continued when asked what more could the industry be doing when it comes to responsible/safer gambling both during the current climate and beyond.
“Some people don’t know how serious of an issue problem gambling can be. Some people don’t realise that casino games are preconfigured to give an advantage to the casino. Some people don’t know that some online casinos are unfair and will try to scam players out of their money.
“What’s more, the internet is full of gambling-related misconceptions, half-truths and outright lies. Providing truthful information to players in a user-friendly way will only make the gambling market better as a whole, allowing people to make informed decisions and gamble more safely.
“… there is no truly global self-exclusion tool”
“Additionally, while current responsible gambling options (such as self-exclusions, deposit limits, etc.) can be helpful, we believe these could be largely improved. For example, there is no truly global self-exclusion tool that would block a person from playing in all casinos in the world.
“Yes, this is not an easy thing to implement, but we believe it can be done. In fact, we’ve started looking into this and we hope we can put things into motion to make this option available to players in the future.”
Concluding on what can be done to ensure compulsive gambling doesn’t spike in society given the current climate: “In addition to education and improving the available responsible gambling options available to players, it’s important that casinos don’t use aggressive and misleading ad campaigns, as people are susceptible to them now more than ever. Many countries have already reacted by tightening regulation on gambling advertisements and we can expect more of them to follow this trend.
“Our approach has always been to give truthful information to our visitors and allow them to make their own informed opinions. If all websites, casinos, and gambling companies did the same, online gambling would be a much safer place both during a worldwide pandemic and outside of it.”