Self excluding from gambling – does it actually work, and how can it be better?

The fine line between a fun pastime and a problem can sometimes get awfully blurry.

This is especially the case with online gambling which can easily turn into a harmful activity when not controlled appropriately.

Disney is giving its financial support to a campaign to stop an expansion of gambling in the Sunshine State, according to reports.
Self excluding – how easy is it to put a stop to your online wagering?

To help curb cases of harm, good online casinos include self exclusion as a hard stop on continuing to use a particular gambling operator.

This involves a number of steps that players can follow to reduce their chances of over-indulgence. Players who feel that they are unable to control their gambling urges are often given the opportunity to formally exclude themselves from specific gambling platforms or restrict their playing time.

The offer of self exclusion is often enforced upon operators by gambling regulators. According to the regulator the UK Gambling Commission, there were a little over one million self-exclusion requests in the UK in 2016/17 compared with 618,000 the year before, showing that demand is on the rise.

But how effective is it in practice?

Making it simple

The key to influencing behaviour is often simplicity.

So to be successful self-exclusion procedures need to be straightforward in order to work.

For instance, many casinos (especially land-based) can require interested individuals to fill out numerous forms and avail personal documents.

This, however, does not guarantee that a player will not be able to access other casino operators and forms of betting.

GambleAware, a problem gambling charity in the UK, has published a report which has been dubbed a wake up call to the industry to do more on problem gambling.
Problem gambling messages coupled with self exclusion are aimed at reducing addition rates..

Some cases have been reported of players who have been able to place wagers even after going through the self exclusion process, even in well regulated jurisdictions like the UK.

The same case applies to bricks-and–mortar gambling establishments including betting shops which, according to the UK Gambling Commission, recorded a year-on-year increase in self exclusion breaches since 2009 in the UK.

But despite some negative headlines, the industry in well-regulated regions, like the UK, generally is offering a robust self-exclusion process, and players should not be put off from exploring it as an option.

The voluntary factor

Self exclusion is only effective when individuals are able to muster the right amount of self control. This is often an uphill task for those who already exhibit serious traits of addiction.

An in-depth analysis on gambling carried out by London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism cites the case of a UK gambler named David Armstrong who tried out self exclusion for his sports betting addiction.

He banned himself from all betting establishments in his hometown of Norwich (UK) but desperate urges led him back to the betting shops which he described as ‘temptation around every corner’.

Unfortunately, even after therapy and counseling, David found it difficult to maintain his self imposed hiatus and found himself betting. This case reveals the extent to which self exclusion is only part of the process.

Self exclusion works, but it could be done better

The problem with self exclusion is that it requires the whole industry, under the eye of the regulator, to work together. In a competitive market, where every customer is valuable, that isn’t easy.

In the UK a BBC Radio 5 Live report found that a self exclusion scheme that was supposed to work across all bookmakers, called MOSES, had serious flaws.

Based in the town of Grimsby, Lincolnshire, the reporter was able to make numerous bets at bookmakers, despite supposedly being on the self exclusion list of all of them. The UK Gambling Commission has said it will investigate, as it would represent a breach of licensing conditions.

The problem is that self exclusion is only as reliable as those enforcing it – both the regulator and the operators who have committed to the scheme.

And while self exclusion is largely successful, negative headlines such as those can diminish trust in the eyes of the player.

GAMSTOP – the way forward?

In 2018, after delays, the UK is expected to rollout GAMSTOP – a one stop shop for all self exclusions from any UK player, gambling at a UK licensed operator.

Gamstop will allow players to self exclude from all gambling operators regulated by the UK Gambling Commission in one simple step.
GAMSTOP will allow players to self exclude from all gambling operators regulated by the UK Gambling Commission in one simple step.

The whole idea is for a simple, one size-fits-all method of putting a hard stop on all gambling. Its inclusion as part of the licensing conditions of operating in the UK is expected have positive impacts on players who feel their gambling is becoming more than just entertainment.

Legislative agenda

In many jurisdictions self exclusion programs are legally unenforceable.

This means that gambling authorities may offer a framework for their implementation but casino operators or bookmakers are not under any legal obligation to include self exclusion as part of their operational requirements.

That means players should always look for trusted, safe casinos at which to play, who are more likely to take the issue of self exclusion seriously. While a strong regulatory or legal framework is vital, a trusted operator should always offer a scheme which is simple and robustly upheld.

Self exclusion usually works, and players should always explore it as an option if they fell they have a gambling problem.


If you want to self exclude from gambling, contact your operator, or your local gambling, regulator, charity or advice service.

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