Gambling

Supplementary written evidence submitted by bwin.party (GA 95)

I offered to come back to the Committee with the statistics on the number of our customers who self-exclude each year, following on from a question from your colleague, Jim Sheridan MP. From 1 January 2011 to the end of October 2011, 2,607 of our UK customers chose to self-exclude and to give you some comparable data, over the same period in 2010 the number was 2,133. According to the results of our research collaboration with the Division on Addictions of Harvard Medical School, only 10% of those players close their accounts because of gambling-related problems (Braverman & Shaffer, 2010). To put these numbers in context, we have close to [190,000] individual active customers in the UK. People may decide to self-exclude for a variety of reasons, having gaming-related problems may be one of them. Self-exclusion is just one of the many responsible gaming tools (self-tests, deposit limits, etc.) that bwin.party offers its customers to help ensure they continue to enjoy gambling in a responsible way.

I would like to reiterate the fact that for regulated operators like bwin.party, problem gambling is bad for business and we are fully committed to addressing any issues experienced by our customers. We already offer a number of measures including self-imposed deposit limits or cooling-off periods as well as session timers and self-exclusion to help our customers control their gaming behaviour through tried and tested safeguards. The UK has maintained one of the lowest prevalence rates of problem gambling in Europe. This underlines the effectiveness of the British regulatory approach which strikes the right balance between an attractive online gambling offer and appropriate consumer protection measures that ensure that the vast majority enjoy gambling as means of entertainment, while the small percentage of those who may have gambling-related problems, are taken care of.

However, in some Member States, online gambling is not sufficiently or - on the contrary -overregulated so that customers are left to transact with operators that fail to offer the level of protective measures secured by regulated operators. We strongly believe that player protection is most effective if there are homogeneously high standards such as the

European Committee for Standardisation's Workshop Agreement on Responsible Remote Gambling Measures (CWA 16259:2011). These standards represent a sensible approach that can and should be adopted at an EU level and would represent an important step towards harmonisation of gambling regulations in the EU.

We believe that the UK framework is working well and delivering an excellent offer for consumers. There is a wide range of gaming products and services to choose from at competitive prices and problem gambling remains low. The unintended consequences of changing such a successful regime may include an increase in the size of the black market where consumers are less likely to be afforded the protections supplied by regulated operators.

November 2011

Prepared 11th January 2012