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Covid-19 – A message from UKGC chair, Neil McArthur to online gambling operators

George Miller

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UK Gambling Commission CEO announces departure
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Since I wrote to you last week, the response to Covid-19 has affected everyone in Great Britain. 

Over the last week, I have spoken to representatives across the industry and understand the significant impact that these uncertain and unsettling events are having on your businesses, your customers and your employees. We have been drawing up an initial assessment on the impact recent events will have on the gambling industry and assessing how we should approach our own work over the coming months.

Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling has always been a major priority and we are very mindful – as you should be – of the fact that the risks of harm arising from online gambling have increased as a result of recent events. As you know, the social distancing measures that have been imposed this week now mean that anyone other than key workers will be at home for most of the day. We are already seeing reports of an increase in online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports.

In light of these developments, whilst I recognise the enormous challenges businesses are facing, I want to make the Commission’s expectations absolutely clear:

  • Consumer protection must be paramount
    • We expect you to act responsibly, especially around individual customer affordability checks and increased social responsibility interactions.
    • We expect you to be very mindful that customers may be vulnerable and experiencing financial uncertainty, whilst others may be experiencing other effects of being isolated including, for example, feelings of anxiety, loneliness or boredom.
    • We expect you to know your customers and step in if they are showing signs that they are experiencing or at risk of harm.
  • Marketing must be conducted responsibly
    • We expect you to on-board new customers in a socially responsible way.
    • You must not exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and should be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell online gaming products to customers who signed up with you in order to bet.
    • We expect you to ensure that your affiliates are conducting themselves appropriately.
  • Compliance with licence conditions and codes of practice
    • We expect you to act in a way that minimises the risks to the licensing objectives.
    • Treat consumers fairly and communicate with them in a clear way that allows them to make a properly informed judgment about whether to gamble.
    • Work with the Commission in an open and co-operative way and act in accordance with both the letter or the spirit of the regulatory framework we have set.

If we see irresponsible behaviour we will step in immediately. So, whilst I know that the current climate is unprecedented, gambling operators must play their part in making sure that people are kept safe.

If you want to share your own analysis of impacts to the industry, or share other information that may be relevant to our work on this issue, you can talk to Ben Haden, Programme Director for Industry Insight, who is collating all of the information about how Covid-19 is affecting the industry.

If you have information or concerns about the behaviour of an operator then our Confidential Intelligence Hotline is continuing to take calls or you can email the team. Finally, you can continue to contact your Account Manager in the normal way to notify of any key events or questions you have during this time. If you have other questions or queries, please let us know and we will do our best to get you an answer.

Yours sincerely,
Neil McArthur

Industry News

ECA Postpones European Dealer Championship Until 2022

Niji Narayan

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ECA Postpones European Dealer Championship Until 2022
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In light of the continued uncertainty regarding international travel and the viability of in-person events due to the ongoing pandemic, the Board of the European Casino Association (ECA) has announced the cancellation of this year’s European Dealer Championship (Monte-Carlo, October 4-8) and ECA Industry Forum (Vienna, November 31-December 3), with both events postponed until 2022.

While no fixed dates can be supplied at this time, the ECA assures members that the European Dealer Championship will return in April/May 2022, followed by the ECA Industry Forum in September/October 2022.

“Health and safety have always been our top priority and the continued uncertainty created by the pandemic makes the postponement of our in-person events the prudent decision. We needed to put down our foot and make this decision now considering the scale of these events and the efforts that are going into organizing and executing them. While we regret the cancellations this year, we look forward to the prospect of EU-wide vaccination programmes lifting current travel restrictions to enable us to reunite with our members in 2022,” ECA Chair Per Jaldung said.

“The ECA Dealer Championship brings together the best dealers from all over Europe in the spirit of healthy competition, while the Industry Forum is a special get-together for industry stakeholders, suppliers and researchers to celebrate the collaborative nature of this business. We believe these events will be more important than ever in 2022 as the industry rebounds from the pandemic and seeks to address the challenges of the ‘new’ future,” Hermann Pamminger, Secretary-General of ECA, said.

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Industry News

DoubleUp Group Selects Fast Track for CRM Solutions

Niji Narayan

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DoubleUp Group chooses Fast Track CRM for player engagement on flagship brand
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Fast Track has signed a deal to provide its customer relationship management (CRM) solution to the new online casino brand of the DoubleUp Group.

DoubleUp Group strives to simplify the user experience. Using their expertise in tech, the team is always on the lookout for ways to improve the player experience. This creates seamless experiences, allowing players to “dive straight into the fun.” Their intuitive new online casino brand is set to launch this May.

Fast Track will support DoubleUp Group’s new launch with their real-time player engagement platform, allowing the team to implement automation across CRM activities and efficiently scale this as the brand grows. This includes the use of Fast Track’s in-house solution for on-site notifications to create “in the moment” engagements and experiences for their players.

“We chose Fast Track because they offer a flexible solution that can power the dynamic engagements that are vital to creating a memorable player experience. We want our team to harness the full extent of their creativity and not be limited by the capabilities of default tools. Fast Track will give them this freedom, allowing them to maximise player engagement,” Ale Rollo, Managing Director of DoubleUp Group, said.

“We share a lot of the same values as DoubleUp; we are constantly looking at how products and processes can be improved, and don’t settle for the status quo. We know they have ambitious plans for their brand and we are ready to support them in making it a success,” Christopher Hirst, Co-founder of Fast Track, said.

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Industry News

FDJ Reports 5.2% Rise in Revenue in Q1 2021

Niji Narayan

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FDJ Reports 5.2% Rise in Revenue in Q1 2021
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French gaming giant La Française des Jeux (FDJ) has reported a year-on-year rise in revenue and stakes during its first quarter, despite continuing restrictions on retail activity related to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Total revenue for the three months to March 31 amounted €537.6m, up 5.2% from €511.2m in the same period last year. Gross gaming revenue was up by 5.1% year-on-year to €525.9m, while revenue from other activities jumped 10.7% from €10.6m to €11.8m.

FDJ said the rise in revenue was driven by an increase in stakes, with players spending a total of €4.6bn, up 11.8% from €4.11bn in Q1 of last year, despite the operator facing longer restrictions related to the pandemic than the same period in 2020.

However, despite the limitations, player spending was up across all areas of the group, most notably in sports betting, where stakes hiked 46.1% to €1.1bn, helped by the return of the traditional sports calendar after disruption in the latter part of Q1 2020.

Lottery remained FDJ’s main source of income with stakes here rising 3.8% to €3.46bn, or 10.0% when excluding the Amigo game, which is offered in bars. FDJ said the closure of bars and other Covid-19 measures had a significant impact on Amigo, with stakes down 50%.

Draw-based game stakes were up 2.6% year-on-year to €1.3bn, while instant games stakes also increase 4.6% to €2.1bn

In terms of where customers were gambling, land-based operations remained the most popular source, with stakes here rising 5.7% to €4.0bn, despite the restrictions. Digital stakes jumped 64.7% to €1.4bn as more players turned to online during the quarter.

Players won a total of €3.20bn gambling with FDJ during the quarter, up 13.7% from €2.81bn in the same period last year. This left €1.40bn in gross gaming revenue and after paying €915.7m in public levies, revenue stood at €537.6m.

“Despite the enduring impact of the health situation on the environment, the first quarter confirmed the good trends in our business, with stakes exceeding the levels recorded before the crisis,” FDJ chairwoman and chief executive Stéphane Pallez said.

“After reaching almost 10% of our global stakes in 2020, digital stakes continue to grow at a strong rate whereas our network activity is maintained. The events program for lottery and a busy sporting calendar, including Euro 2021 in football, should allow this momentum to continue in the months to come.”

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