New Non-Partisan Report: The Online Gambling Industry Is Itself “Addicted to Addiction”

ResPublica – an independent, non-partisan think tank – just released a bombshell new report on the shameful state of the online gambling industry. Here’s why Bloomberg Government‘s Sam Skolnik calls its conclusions “damning”:

The online gambling industry obtains more than half of its profit from at risk and problem gamblers.

Thus, the industry is addicted to addiction – too high a proportion of its profits come from the vulnerable and it has an interest in people spending time online and keeping people online to develop a habit – drawing them into gambling and creating long-term dependency.

It should be accepted that the online environment is more dangerous for those at risk as there is greater scope for using sophisticated techniques to create ongoing dependency for the vulnerable.

In other words, more than fifty cents of every dollar of profit made by online casinos come from addicts.

Or, in other words, that would amount to more than 1.6 of the €3.2 million that former Paddy Power Betfair CEO Breon Corcoran received the year he left the online gambling giant. Per new research released yesterday by The Irish Times on how “top Irish CEOs earn 33 times more than their average employees,” Corcoran’s remuneration package “rose 105.7 per cent” – which would go a long way in helping addicts like the gambler Paddy Power encouraged to “keep betting until he lost five jobs, his home and access to his children.”

ResPublica‘s report adds disturbing new context to the Competition and Markets Authority’s 2016 investigation into the online gambling industry, which, among other violations, found “breaches of consumer protection law” and “restrictions that require people to play multiple times before allowing them to withdraw their own money.” While these new findings are harrowing, they are also hardly surprising given the predatory practices relied upon by online casinos. Here are just a few examples of the industry’s most egregious examples of targeting addicts in recent months alone:

  • BBC News: “LeoVegas failed problem gamblers…sent marketing material to 1,894 people who had previously self-excluded”
  • Business Insider: Online gambling ads appear “on pages with headlines such as ‘Twelve Ways To Stop Gambling Addiction Forever'”
  • Daily Mail: “Online betting firms cynically harvest customers’ information and use it to keep them playing – even if they run up a string of losses”
  • Daily Mail: “How cynical gambling giants keep online punters hooked: Bookmakers hand out all-expenses-paid trips and hospitality tickets as part of VIP packages to keep top spenders betting”
  • Daily Mail: After Chris Bruney committed suicide because of his addiction, his partner found messages from online casinos on his phone – “offering him ‘free’ £300 bets — clearly trying to suck him into further betting binges…Even after [Chris] died, there were messages from the company, continuing its attempt to seduce him back with the cheery message: ‘We haven’t heard from you in a while'”
  • The Guardian: Online casinos have “plied ex-gamblers with targeted ads attempting to lure them back, while thousands of people who self-excluded have still been able to access their accounts”
  • The Independent: “Gambling firm 32Red fined £2m for handing VIP status to problem gambler…Instead of providing the help and advice, company handed out free bonuses to encourage further play”
  • The Times: “Online ads are deliberately targeting not just children but the most vulnerable…bombarding former gamblers with advertising in the hope of luring them back…imagine tobacco or alcohol companies being allowed to use such tactics on former smokers and alcoholics”

When obtaining more than 50% of its profit from addicts just isn’t enough, it’s clear that, just like the style of poker one can play on a smartphone, the online gambling industry’s shame knows no limit.