Denmark’s self-exclusion system, ROFUS, will include physical stores from 1 October 2023.
This means that those who have registered with ROFUS on or after this date will not only be excluded from online games and physical casinos, but also retail betting shops.
Consumers now looking to place a bet in land-based venues will need to present a new form of Player ID.
This mandatory identification is designed to prevent those who’ve chosen to self-exclude online from easily bypassing the system by gambling in physical outlets.
Users already registered with ROFUS before 1 October 2023 won’t be affected by the new rules unless they choose to renew and amend their registration.
Behind this expansion of ROFUS and the introduction of the Player ID lies a commitment from the Danish Gambling Authority (DGA) to safeguard consumers.
Primary goals include enhanced protection for players, ensuring underage individuals don’t access gambling in physical stores, and amplifying efforts to tackle potential match-fixing and money laundering.
The prospect of introducing a mandatory Player ID for the physical betting market was agreed by Danish politicians back in November 2019.
In February 2023, the number of players who had excluded themselves from gambling using the ROFUS self-exclusion register exceeded 40,000.
The land-based casino sector was integrated into ROFUS in 2016.
A legislative change in 2020 required all operators, both online and land-based, to refer to ROFUS in marketing material.
Online slots were the most common vertical that National Gambling Helpline callers struggled with last year, according to new statistics from GamCare.
GamCare is a UK-based charity providing information, advice and support for anyone affected by gambling harms, as well as operating the National Gambling Helpline.
In 2022, the helpline took calls from 5,660 individuals struggling with the effects of gambling, of which 73% said they struggled with online gambling specifically.
Of those who disclosed difficulties with online gambling, 60% cited playing online slots as one of the main activities they struggled with, up from 34% in 2018-19.
In other verticals, the figures were significantly lower.
The proportion of callers citing challenges with betting exchanges, for example, was relatively low at 7.6%, though this marks a rapid increase from just 0.3% in 2018-19.
Meanwhile, the proportion of callers having problems with financial markets such as cryptocurrencies and other trading products rose from just 0.02% to 2.17% during the five-year comparative period.
In online sports betting, however, the figure has fallen, with 20% of callers citing problems with the vertical compared to 34% in 2018-19.
GamCare’s lived experience manager Colin Walsh said: “There is still a perception that gambling harm predominantly comes from betting on horses or sports events.
“In the past five years, we have broadly seen a trend where people often start gambling on these activities but eventually transition into other areas of online gambling, where it can be easy to lose sight of how much time and money is being spent.
“The data highlights that it is now disproportionately online slots that are the main challenge for many people who call the National Gambling Helpline.
Walsh added that he knows from experience “how difficult this form of gambling can be, and how isolating it can feel if you find yourself caught in a negative cycle.
“But I also know that it is possible to get through it and that there is free help for anyone struggling with it,” he concluded.
Statistics published earlier this year showed that nearly 330,000 people were excluded from gambling in the UK via Gamstop, a self-exclusion service which collaborates with GamCare through the TalkBanStop partnership.
Swedish-licensed operators combined to generate turnover of SEK6.70bn (€563m) in Q2 2023.
This represented a 1% decrease year-on-year, but a sequential increase of 1.8%.
Commercial online gambling, which includes online casino and sports betting, provided 62% of overall Q2 2023 turnover at SEK4.18bn (€351m).
State lottery and slot games was the next biggest contributor at SEK1.40bn (€117m) following an annual decline of 1.6%.
Second quarter turnover from Casino Cosmopol – the state-owned gaming operator – fell by 13.1% year-on-year to SEK126m (€10.6m).
At the end Q2 2023, approximately 95,000 people were prohibited from gambling via the country’s self-exclusion register Spelpaus.se.
This marks an increase of 1.4% compared to the previous quarter, while year-on-year data was not provided.
The Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) continuously collects and analyses data to monitor trends in the gaming area, including on turnover for public benefit purposes.
The regulator defines turnover as player stakes minus pay outs. Quarterly turnover figures are also based on tax data from the Swedish Tax Agency.
Spain’s gambling regulator the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) has opened a public consultation on the introduction of cross-operator deposit limits for customers.
The topic is one of several now open for comment from industry stakeholders, and would see players face monthly limits on how much they can deposit across all licensed operators.
The change would mark a significant difference from the current deposit limit system, which prevents customers from spending over a certain threshold, but only with individual operators.
Under the proposed new system, customers would be prevented from circumventing their own self-imposed limits simply by moving over to another operator.
The public consultation on the matter is open until 16 October.
The DGOJ said its regulatory objective is to “guarantee the protection of public order, fight against fraud, prevent addictive behaviour, protect the rights of minors and safeguard the rights of gambling participants.”
Spanish regulation has already tightened in recent years, with strict rules on marketing and advertising introduced in 2021.
At that time, gambling sponsorship in sport was outlawed, while a permitted window for TV and radio advertising was established between just 1AM and 5AM.
The DGOJ also continues to work on the introduction of a national self-exclusion register for customers in Spain, as currently each of Spain’s autonomous communities operates its own register.
In Q1 2023, operators in Spain’s regulated online gambling sector generated €304.9m in GGR, an increase of 51% over the prior-year comparative period.
Australia has launched its national self-exclusion register BetStop, covering all interactive wagering service providers licensed in the country.
Australians will be able to self-exclude from a minimum period of three months up to a lifetime, by registering free-of-charge with the service in a single interaction.
Wagering service providers are not allowed to open an account or accept a bet from self-excluded individuals and cannot send them marketing materials.
Following its launch operators must now promote BetStop, including on their websites and apps, and via marketing material sent to customers.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be responsible for regulating BetStop, which is operated by IXUP Limited.
BetStop is the final measure of Australia’s National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering.
Two other measures – requiring consistent gambling messaging and additional training for staff – came into effect earlier this year on 30 March.
BetStop has been subject to extensive testing and trialling to ensure it provides a secure and trusted environment for users.
Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland (pictured) commented: “The Albanese Government is committed to minimising gambling harms for vulnerable Australians. That’s why I am pleased the National Self-Exclusion Register has officially launched.
“BetStop will change lives for the better, giving Australians most at-risk of gambling harm the support they need to self-exclude from interactive licensed wagering.”
Customer pre-verification by September
Complementing the launch of BetStop, the government will also introduce mandatory customer pre-verification, requiring gambling operators to verify a customer’s identity when they register for a new account and before they can place a bet.
This will replace an existing requirement to verify a customer’s identity within 72 hours and enhances protection for citizens, including underage or newly registered individuals who have self-excluded through BetStop.
This requirement is expected to be put in place by the end of September 2023.
The launch of BetStop and introduction of customer pre-verification build on the government’s previous commitments including a ban on the use of credit cards for online wagering, and strengthened classification of gambling-like features in video games, including loot boxes.
Moreover, the government has introduced mandatory monthly activity statements so customers can easily see their wins and losses, additional staff training and new evidence-based taglines to replace ‘Gamble Responsibly’.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has introduced a “more user-friendly” self-exclusion system for gamblers in the state.
History of self-exclusion in Pennsylvania
The regulator first introduced its self-exclusion programme long before the introduction of online sports betting and iGaming, back in 2006.
The original programme allowed customers to ban themselves from entering and gambling in the state’s land-based casinos.
It was subsequently expanded after the 2017 Gaming Expansion Act, and now includes three additional self-exclusion programmes.
The separate programmes cover online sports betting and iGaming, video gaming terminals at truck stops, and online fantasy sports.
Operators in Pennsylvania must refuse wagers from any individual listed on the self-exclusion registers, while those found to be participating in gambling activities while registered on the lists may be charged with criminal trespass and have any gambling winnings confiscated.
Thanks to the enhanced tools launched by the PGCB, those wishing to self-exclude can now do so by visiting a single website via responsibleplay.pa.gov.
There, customers can easily enrol in one, several, or all of Pennsylvania’s self-exclusion programmes.
They can also request removal from the casino self-exclusion list, extend the period of their exclusion, update their personal information and access links to gambling disorder information and problem gambling helplines.
The new system follows on from an update to neighbouring New Jersey’s self-exclusion programme introduced in April.
Alongside introducing a host of new responsible gambling guidelines, the state has made it easier for customers to self-exclude from gambling by removing the requirement to attend an in-person meeting.
Further requirements for operators
“The self-exclusion programmes are just one of the ways in which the Board’s Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling (OCPG) is making sure that gaming is fair and safe,” said the PGCB.
In addition to the programmes, operators in Pennsylvania are required to train their staff on the signs and symptoms of gambling disorder.
They are also required to have policies and procedures in place to identify customers exhibiting harmful behaviour, implement responsible advertising policies, and participate in outreach programmes.
All online operators are also required to provide options for customers to place self-imposed limits on deposits, wagers, spend and play time.
In the lead up to iGaming NEXT Valletta 23, editor Conor Mulheir caught up with Casino Guru sustainable and safer gambling lead Šimon Vincze.
Below, the duo discuss the prospect of a global self-exclusion scheme and why there is no silver bullet solution when it comes to gambling-related harm.
iGN: What projects are you working on right now?
SV: Most of my work wraps around the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative and the Casino Guru Academy, but I am picking a couple of smaller projects and initiatives throughout the year.
The Academy is currently releasing a course focused on ESG in iGaming, which we did together with Adrian Sladdin and his Seventh Wave trainings.
Furthermore, we spent the last couple of weeks digging into our own processes and values as we work on courses on complaints handling and unfair rules in online casinos.
These should give operators practical guidance on dealing with player complaints and provide deep insights into some problematic rules.
The Initiative is entering its next chapter with a research project focused on self-exclusion standards with City, University of London.
Most recently, I have cleared some space to explore what we can do with the issue of “not on GamStop” websites.
iGN: Why do you think it’s important for self-exclusion to be made possible on a global scale?
SV: Self-exclusion is not the silver bullet for gambling addiction (if there is any), but it helps many to stay in control.
It creates space between the person and the possibility of spending money gambling.
However, players will always be able to find a way to gamble further somewhere.
What creates a difference here is how easy it is and what the person needs to go through to achieve it.
The scope of any single system is now limited to single jurisdictions, as no solution goes beyond license holders in one country.
There are hundreds of other casinos operating from offshore, from which those with troubles cannot get blocked.
The global system’s goal is to increase the friction, extend the space between players and gambling activity, and include every operator who cares about those who do not want to get allowed to spend money gambling.
iGN: How can a global self-exclusion register work alongside local regulations?
SV: Quite independently.
The global system is proposed as another layer of protection, offering wider option for self-exclusion to those who struggle the most.
It is not here to replace single-operator or nationwide systems but to coexist with them.
Then comes the question of how such a system comes into action.
Our best stake currently is self-regulation and the willingness of operators to join the global system and expand it further.
I would love to cooperate with regulators on this project, but that represents a lot of challenges, given its international nature.
We would have to start with a bunch of most dedicated operators and show that the scheme works. Once operable, ways for further expenditure will start to open.
iGN: What are the biggest challenges in setting up a global self-exclusion register?
SV: Where to start…?
Self-exclusion as a concept is imperfect.
Unfortunately, you can’t just pull the plug on an individual’s possibility to gamble, and everything shuts down.
Regardless of gambling opportunities outside the self-exclusion scope, you must deal with stuff like the speed of execution, false negatives, account reopening, or marketing bans.
Probably the biggest technical challenge for global operations is the lack of unified, unique identification in combination with the registration process.
Most of the operators verify their players at the point of withdrawal, which left us relying on the combination of full name and date of birth to capture registered individuals.
Right next to it is the security challenge, as the scheme will work with sensitive (and for some valuable) personal data.
It goes hand in hand with reputation and credibility when dealing with partners, as it is with registering individuals.
Once operational, the system will be governed by an independent organization to ensure its integrity.
iGN: What stage is the project at now?
SV: We have made significant progress with awareness and proposal of the global system in the past two years, but we are really still at the beginning.
Nonetheless, we just recently initiated a new chapter in the project with work on self-exclusion standards, as there is currently no evidence-based guidance on the most effective process of self-exclusion internationally.
The project will have three phases: 1. Research & Fact-finding, 2. Workgroup Meetings, and 3. Broader Consultations.
I am really excited about this one, as the results shall serve as a source of inspiration for operators and regulators around the world.
Plus, it will clarify further what set of rules would be suitable for global system.
iGN: How does Casino Guru’s expertise position it well to undertake this work?
SV: Casino Guru is well-positioned to see the big picture of self-exclusion and player’s journeys, but we do not have the expertise to create a comprehensive guideline for self-exclusion.
That being said, I am so happy that we started working with City and prof. Margaret Carran on this and commissioned them to run the project.
Her vast experience as an academic and researcher in the field of gambling policy was the source for setting up a robust methodology for achieving the standards.
And there is more.
The second phase of the project relies on the workgroup member’s expertise and their background in the series of workshops aimed at the creation of recommendations on the self-exclusion practice.
Additionally, they will have the results from research and fact-finding as a source of current evidence.
To include a broader part of the industry, we will subject workgroup findings to feedback and criticism from other organizations, including regulators, trade associations, or treatment providers.
We want to ensure that the final paper will have a reliable method and collective knowledge behind it.
iGN: What are the next steps and your roadmap to making this project a reality?
SV: It was never completely clear how we could make the global system a reality.
Sure, we have a very specific proposal in the blue paper and a clear idea of which direction we want to go, but the truth is that only the closest following step is clearly visible to me.
So many things can influence progress, and as the Initiative is also a campaign, I am trying to build a momentum.
It is not like I would be just drifting in the wind. Do not get me wrong.
The work on the standards should take around 18 months, and the agenda and goals are very specific.
The final paper will accelerate the Initiative’s progress towards a specific solution, as we will have a much better idea of what details of self-exclusion should be part of it, but I see the process of achieving it as even more important.
The project includes many organizations and individuals from the industry and will bring them closer to the issues connected with self-exclusion and the creation of a global system.
I believe it will improve the Initiative’s momentum.
iGN: Which other areas would you like to focus your attention on?
SV: I am currently shifting my attention to the issue of websites and operators targeting players that are self-excluded in their national schemes.
The notorious “not on GamStop casinos” is a devious strategy aimed at the most vulnerable.
The problem is that there is no simple solution, as we deal with Google search results and players’ intentions to search for such keywords.
It is hard to stop someone from doing it or finding it by accident on the internet.
My idea is to focus on reflecting on such activity in casino reviews and influencing players to avoid it.
I do not have a clear idea yet, but something similar already works for us with T&Cs and complaints.
There is another thing that’s been stuck in my head for some time working around gambling research and evidence-based regulation.
There is a lot of research that already provides answers to many questions, but it is not being translated to the rest of the industry, including the public.
I think that, if we could make conclusions from research more accessible and digestible, it would help us to shape more sustainable gambling industry in many aspects.
Supporting research and contributing to it with our data and insights is one of the priorities within my scope.
Australia is set to introduce its national self-exclusion register BetStop on 21 August.
Australians will have the option to voluntarily exclude themselves from all licensed online gambling operators in the country, for a minimum of three months and up to a lifetime.
Under the new system, operators will be prohibited from opening accounts or accepting bets from self-excluded individuals, as well as sending them marketing material.
Registration with BetStop is free and can be done through a single transaction, covering all 150 licensed wagering providers in Australia.
Alongside the launch of BetStop, the Australian government will also introduce mandatory customer pre-verification, requiring operators to verify a customer’s identity when they register for a new account and before they can place a bet.
This will replace the existing requirement to verify a customer’s identity within 72 hours.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be responsible for regulating BetStop, which is operated by IXUP Limited.
The ACMA said the BetStop system has undergone extensive testing and trialling to ensure it provides a secure and trusted environment for self-excluded individuals.
Wagering service providers are required to promote BetStop on their websites, apps and marketing material to customers.
When the service launches, operators will not be allowed to open accounts, provide services or directly market to individuals who have self-excluded.
This includes bulk marketing through electronic means like email and SMS, as well as individual communication such as phone calls, SMS and emails.
Penalties for non-compliance
The ACMA has emphasised the importance for all providers to connect to the system and complete final testing before the launch.
Failure to do so may result in penalties of up to A$281,700 per day for each day an operator is not connected once the service is launched.
More severe penalties can be applied if a wagering provider violates the rules by opening an account, providing services or marketing to self-excluded individuals.
Starting from the launch date, the ACMA will actively monitor industry compliance and may take enforcement actions, including issuing warnings, penalty notices, and applying to the Federal Court for civil penalties or injunctions.
The ACMA will also inform state and territory licensing bodies in cases of suspected non-compliance.
BetStop is the final measure of the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering. Two other measures – consistent gambling messaging and training for wagering staff – came into effect on 30 March of this year.
The implementation of BetStop and customer pre-verification was recommended in a Parliamentary inquiry into online gambling’s impact on those experiencing gambling harm. These measures are supported by all states and territories.
Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland (pictured) commented: “The launch of Australia’s first national self-exclusion register, BetStop, is a game changer, and will make it easy for vulnerable consumers to self-exclude from online wagering services.
“BetStop is the last of 10 measures to be implemented under the National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering, to empower Australians through stronger consumer protections.”
Amanda Rishworth, Minister for Social Services, added: “These measures will help to minimise the harm we see as a result of online gambling. For many people, it will change their lives.
“We know minimising the harm caused by online gambling is not a set and forget exercise and I look forward to working with my state and territory counterparts on what comes next to continue this positive change.”
AML laws to be changed
Mandatory customer pre-verification will be introduced through an amendment to the country’s AML/CFT legislation.
The government will undergo the necessary legislative process, including public consultation, with completion expected by the end of September.
The launch of BetStop and introduction of customer pre-verification build upon the government’s previous decisions to ban the use of credit cards for online wagering and strengthen the classification of gambling-like features in video games, including loot boxes and simulated gambling.
Flutter Entertainment must pay a fine of £490,000 to the UK Gambling Commission after a subsidiary contacted self-excluded customers with promo offers.
The failing, which occurred in November 2021, was committed by PPB Counterparty Services Limited, which was trading as Paddy Power and Betfair at the time.
The breach saw the operator’s app send an offer of enhanced odds for bets on a Premier League football match to Apple devices linked to accounts that were registered with UK self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP, as well as accounts that had self-excluded with the licensee.
This action broke Commission rules requiring gambling businesses to take all reasonable steps to prevent any marketing material being sent to self-excluded customers.
Licensed operators are required to remove the name and details of self-excluded players from marketing databases within two days of the self-exclusion being completed.
Flutter accepted the breach but initially appealed the penalty to the first-tier tribunal. It then agreed to dispose of the appeal and accept a substitute penalty of £490,000.
The operator contacted the regulator with news of the breach five days after it had occurred. The UKGC confirmed it had received no complaints from customers regarding the matter.
Kay Roberts, Gambling Commission executive director of operations, said: “Although there is no evidence the marketing was intentional, nor that all the people with apps saw the notification or that self-excluded customers were allowed to gamble, we take such breaches seriously.
“We would advise all operators to learn from the operator’s failures and ensure their systems are robust enough to always prevent self-excluded customers from being sent promotional material.”
This is the second six-figure enforcement action sanctioned by the UKGC this week after SkillOnNet was ordered to pay £305,150 for social responsibility and AML failures.
Data published by the Dutch regulator (KSA) and British self-exclusion service Gamstop show an increasing number of customers opting to exclude themselves from gambling.
In the Netherlands, the KSA this week launched an updated version of its Central Register of Exclusion from Games of Chance (Cruks), making it easier for customers to exclude themselves from gambling.
Another new addition to the service is a ‘reflection period’, for those wishing to remove themselves from the list after their period of exclusion has expired.
Customers opting for self-exclusion in the Netherlands can do so for a minimum period of six months, while they can also opt for longer periods.
Players opting for longer periods can choose to remove themselves from the register at any time after the first six months have passed.
Previously, this could be done instantly at the push of a button. However, an eight-day reflection period has now been introduced in order to discourage impulsive removals from the register.
Self-excluded customers are unable to play online with KSA-licensed operators, and the self-exclusion also applies to land-based casinos and arcades.
Active since 1 October 2021, when the Netherlands launched its regulated online gambling market, Cruks now has more than 38,000 registered customers.
The last time data from the Netherlands was released on self-exclusion, in the KSA’s 2022 annual report published in March, some 35,750 customers had registered with Cruks.
At that time, there were some 563,000 active player accounts registered with operators in the country, meaning the number of self-excluded customers was around 6.3% of the number of active accounts.
UK facts and figures
Meanwhile in the UK, self-exclusion service Gamstop has marked its fifth anniversary by reporting the highest number of self-exclusions ever recorded in a single month.
In March 2023, 8,504 customers registered with the service, a 24% increase over March 2022.
Since launching in April 2018, more than 365,000 UK customers have registered with Gamstop, with nearly 330,000 of them still excluded.
Customers using the service can choose to exclude themselves from gambling for a period of six months, one year, or five years.
The service is also part of the TalkBanStop partnership, combining self-exclusion with device blocking software and bank blocks, as well as referring registrants to Gamcare for additional support around gambling harm.
Gamstop suggested that the surge in self-exclusions in March was likely caused by the Cheltenham Festival, an annual horse racing event attracting hundreds of millions of pounds in bets.
The biggest days for registrations were immediately after the festival, Gamstop reports.
According to a survey commissioned by Gamstop, 84% of self-excluded customers said they felt safer from gambling-related harm and more in control of their gambling after registering with the service.
Many respondents added that they would like the option to have a lifetime exclusion from gambling.
“Our most recent data shows that, five years after our inception, Gamstop is providing an increasingly important service to potentially vulnerable consumers who want to take a break from gambling,” commented Gamstop CEO Fiona Palmer.
“The record monthly registrations shows that we cannot underestimate the demand for a scheme such as Gamstop.
“It is extremely important that we continue to raise awareness to make sure that anyone who needs us knows about us. We also need to continue to listen to our users and develop and improve the scheme to meet their needs,” Palmer concluded.
One Gamstop registrant, Jack Scott, said the impact of the service had been “nothing short of life-changing.”
Having gambled “terrifying” amounts of money in the past, including borrowed funds, Scott suggested he would not have been able to stop gambling without using Gamstop.
He suggested anyone who thinks they may be suffering gambling-related harm should research the service and seek support from Gamstop or Gamcare.
In Denmark, the number of self-excluded customers exceeded 40,000 earlier this month, following steady growth in the figures since the Danish Gambling Authority launched its ROFUS self-exclusion service in 2012.
In Sweden, more than 85,000 players are registered with the Spelpaus self-exclusion service.
New Jersey recently introduced new rules designed to make it easier for customers to self-exclude from gambling, in both the land-based and online sectors.
In July last year, Australia released new rules for its BetStop national self-exclusion register, requiring operators to promote the service through their websites, apps and marketing materials.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s Gambling Regulatory Bill, which is expected to be implemented in the country this year, also includes the introduction of a self-exclusion register.