What is Safer Gambling Week 2021?
Safer Gambling Week is an industry initiative that was first run in 2017 under the name Responsible Gambling Week. It’s been gaining momentum each year and this year’s event, which runs from 1st – 7th November 2021, is set to be the biggest yet. The Betting and Gaming Council, the Bingo Association and bacta are the industry bodies behind the initiative and its stated aim is to promote safer gambling (online and offline) in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Safer Gambling Week 2021 is all about getting people – including operators, players and comparision sites like us – to join in the conversation about safer gambling. This takes place on websites, on social media and – now that they are open again -in land based venues such as casinos and bingo halls as well as via direct messaging between operators and players.
Last year, despite the land based venues being closed and unable to participate, there were a staggering 19 million views of Safer Gambling Week related posts on social media plus an 18 % increase in traffic to the Safer Gambling website (which is a source of help and information all year round, not just during Safer Gambling Week). Operators also reported a surge in players using safer gambling tools including setting deposit limits, so clearly the messaging was effective!
The industry has come a long, long way over the last ten years in terms of the player protections and safer gambling tools that have been introduced and a large part of the Safer Gambling Week messaging now focuses on encouraging players into a mindset that ensures safer gambling as well as educating them about the tools that are available.
What are the key messages for players in Safer Gambling Week 2021?
This year, there are four key player behaviours that are being encouraged as part of Safer Gambling Week:
- Set your limits for time and money
- Only spend what you can afford
- Tools are available to help you gamble more safely
- Gambling shouldn’t interfere with your personal relationships
Further messaging prompts players to take time to think in more specific circumstances:
- Ask yourself – are you past your spending limit?
- Play smart – don’t chase your losses
- Remember – friends and family are more important that gambling
- Remember – gambling is not a way to make money
- Remember – it’s good to set yourself limits
- Remember – it’s good to take a break
All of this encourages players to take responsibility for their own behaviour but of course, the operator’s role is not confined to supplying safer gambling tools – they are required to monitor players for any signs of problem gambling behaviour and pro-actively intervene if it is evident. They also have to carry out affordability checks to help prevent players from spending what they can’t afford and this is why operators ask players what their occupation is and want to see proof of income when spending reaches a certain level.
What are operators doing to ensure safer gambling?
UK online gambling sites all now include Responsible Gaming content but some operators have gone above and beyond. Under the terms of their licence, all UK operators MUST provide the following safer gambling tools:
- Deposit limits – per day, per week, per month – that are easier to set than to remove (typically, there’s a waiting period to remove them)
- Session reminders – also known as Reality Check, these pop-ups interrupt play at pre-set intervals
- Cool off – freeze your account (just with that operator at that one site) for a pre-selected period of 1 day to 6 weeks, after which it is automatically reinstated
- Self exclusion – this has to be for at least 6 months and up to 5 years. It affects all accounts you have with that operator or licence (so if you have accounts at multiple Dragonfish bingo sites, for instance, you will be excluded from all of them and prevented from opening any new ones) and there is no automatic reinstatement when it expires – you have to request it.
- Gamstop – this is the nuclear option of self exclusion for 6 months, 1 year or 5 years from ALL online gambling companies licensed in Great Britain (it does not cover offline venues, which have their own multi-operator self exclusion schemes )
Some of the tools that have been provided by operators who have made an extra effort with safer gambling are:
- Loss and/or spend limits as well as deposit limits
- Curfew – ban yourself from depositing on certain days and/or at certain times of day
- Game Freeze – ban yourself from playing a specific game (with a 24 hour wait to unfreeze)
With impeccable timing, there are some very important game design changes, intended to help players be more aware of time and money, that have to be implemented by the end of October, just in time for Safer Gambling Week. You’ll notice these immediately when you start to play a slot game from 1st November (and there are some less intrusive changes too):
- The autoplay button is no longer there; each spin has to be carried out individually by hitting the Play button.
- A display shows you how long you’ve been playing the game for, and your net position (how much you’ve won or lost during that session).
What other help is available?
The final pillar of Safer Gambling Week messaging is where to get help if you, or someone you know, has a problem. The Safer Gambling website itself is full of resources, or you could go straight to Gamcare’s website or their free 24 hour helpline. We also have links to many helpful organistions on our responsible gambling page.
We’ll be sharing safer gambling messaging on our website and on social media during Safer Gambling Week and urge everyone to do the same to raise awareness of these important issues. Looking beyond Safer Gambling Week, we now include information about safer gambling tools whenever we review a new bingo site or casino or revisit a review of an older site.