Concerns have been raised after it recently came to light that a small number of iGaming affiliates are actively targeting problem gamblers despite them being signed up to GamStop, a self-exclusion service.
It has been discovered that these affiliates have been using specific search terms to deliberately target people suffering from gambling addiction and steer them towards online gambling sites that aren’t registered on GamStop.
What is GamStop?
GamStop is a UK self-exclusion scheme that allows players to exclude themselves from online gambling for periods of 6 months, 1 year or 5 years. Players need to provide personal details such as email address, postal address and date of birth when they sign up to GamStop so their self-exclusion can be processed, and once they are registered, every time they attempt to log in or register with an online casino they will be blocked. GamStop has proved to be hugely successful, with over 70,000 people having signed up to the scheme since it was set up in 2017.
At the present time, it is mainly casinos licensed by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) that are registered with GamStop, which has created a loophole that unscrupulous affiliates are now exploiting. GamStop is working closely with the UKGC to rectify the flaws that still exist in its system, and it is hoped that registration with GamStop will soon become a license requirement for online casinos operating in the UK.
Unfortunately, it seems this will do little to protect problem gamblers from unregulated and unlicensed casino operators, and it is these online casinos that a small number of casino affiliates are using to take advantage of people with gambling addictions.
Problem gamblers targeted by rogue affiliates
These casino affiliates have begun to target search terms they think problem gamblers looking for a way around their self-exclusion might use, such as ‘non-GamStop casinos’ and other related keywords. They then create affiliate sites providing visitors with lists of online casinos that accept UK players and where GamStop does not apply. Rogue affiliates appear to be attempting to take advantage of players suffering from gambling addiction, putting profit before the health and wellbeing of these people.
Pages set up by these affiliates have been found to list online casinos that are unlicensed by the UKGC but allow players from the UK to register and play, regardless of whether or not the player is signed up to GamStop. Given that the purpose of these affiliate websites is to offer information on non-GamStop online gambling sites, it is hard to imagine that they are unaware of what they’re doing or who they’re targeting. These vulnerable problem gamblers, who have already tried to self-exclude themselves, that are at greater risk of falling back into addictive gambling behaviours due to the practices of disreputable affiliates.
It remains to be seen what can be done about unlicensed casinos operating in the UK, but reputable casino affiliates are attempting to fight back against the problem of rogue affiliates. One affiliate is now targeting the same keywords as these disreputable affiliates in order to instead redirect players to a webpage linking to a responsible gaming app that allows problem gamblers to self-exclude from a greater number of online slot sites. It is hoped that in conjunction with GamStop, such apps will be able to offer greater protection to those with a gambling addiction.