Gambling firms have been accused of exploiting the vulnerable by ramping up advertising and offers during the coronavirus lockdown.
Bookmakers have filled platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with adverts offering free spins and ‘welcome bonuses’ of up to £1,500.
MPs and campaigners accused the gambling industry of using ‘aggressive tactics to profit from people’s misery’ and called for a ban on advertising, offers and sponsorships during the lockdown.
With the suspension of football and other sports, betting companies are pouring their efforts into advertising online casinos, which many say are more addictive.
Bookmakers have filled social media with adverts offering people free spins. Above is a branded rugby ball for the Betfred Super League
William Hill, BetVictor, Betfred and 888 Holdings are also promoting ‘virtual’ games where gamblers can bet on the outcome of computer-generated racing and football matches. Almost one in ten of those who use online slots, casino and bingo are problem gamblers compared to 2.5 per cent of those who place sports bets, according to the most recent analysis by the Gambling Commission.
Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, this week warned bookmakers that the ‘risk of harm’ from online gambling had increased due to lockdown.
Paid-for Facebook adverts from William Hill Casino offer £15 free for signing up. The bookmaker also pushed a new customer package of 50 free spins and up to a £300 free bonus for new customers.
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Other adverts saturating social media sites include BetVictor’s offer of £70 free for spending £10 plus 50 free spins, Virgin Games offering 30 free spins if you play £10 and Sky Vegas promoting ‘£20k cash prizes’.One of the biggest offers came from 888casino which advertised a ‘welcome bonus’ package of up to £888 free and up to £1,500 and £20 free and up to £300 on the first deposit on 888poker.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm, last night called for a complete ban on gambling advertising during the coronavirus pandemic and for a £2 stake limit to be enforced online.
She said her inbox has been overflowing with messages from people who haven’t gambled for several years who have this week been targeted by betting firms.
Betting platforms have been accused of ‘aggressively targeting’ customers
She said: ‘That cannot be coincidental. That is deliberate. They are using a devastating situation to profiteer from the misery people who until now have managed to avoid gambling.
A spokesman for Gamesys, which runs Virgin Games, said its advertising budget for March was ‘the lowest it has been this year’.
A spokesman for William Hill said there had been no increase in offers or bonuses during the coronavirus crisis. He added: ‘We recognise that these are unprecedented times and we are continuing to offer a robust set of safer gambling services and tools during this period aimed at protecting our existing and new customers.’
Sky Betting and Gaming – which runs Sky Vegas – said it had not increased its overall advertising, marketing or offers. BetVictor and 샌즈카지노쿠폰 Betfred were all approached for comment.
A spokesman for 888 said: ‘888 recognises that, in the current environment, our vigilance to prevent gambling-related harm is even more important than ever before.
‘We are mindful of the uncertainty that may be impacting people currently and have not increased marketing activity during this period