Gamstop is a free-to-use self-exclusion service for those who want help to avoid gambling. From March 2020, all online gambling platforms must be registered with Gamstop in order to receive a licence from the UK Gambling Commission, the UK’s regulatory body.
This service has proved to be really useful for those who think they may have an issue – or be at risk of developing a problem – with their gambling. It can be used to self-exclude for a relatively short period (of six months) or as a longer-term solution. According to stats released by Gamstop, around a third of those registered for self-exclusion attempted to access a gambling site during this period, indicating that the platform successfully dissuades those who wish to quit (or take a break from) gambling during self-exclusion.
The National Online Self-Exclusion Scheme Ltd, a not-for-profit organization, operates Gamstop.
How Does Gamstop Work?
If a player wishes to self-exclude, they must register for this service via the organization’s website. Many online casinos operating in the UK have a link to Gamstop on their own site.
As part of the registration process, the player will need to provide some personal details to Gamstop, including their name, address, date of birth, email addresses, and phone numbers used to sign in to any gambling platforms currently being used. Next, the individual must select the minimum exclusion period they wish to apply; Gamstop offers three options: six months, one year, or five years. Upon completion of registration, verification will be carried out, and the player will be required to provide a photograph of themselves and a form of photo ID at this stage.
Once this process is complete, the self-exclusion will take effect usually within twenty-four hours. Once the self-exclusion is in place, the individual will be unable to deactivate the self-exclusion until the end of the minimum period selected.
The Limits of Gamstop
Users need to be aware that Gamstop will only be effective for UK-based casinos and those registered with the scheme. It only prevents users from accessing online gambling websites and apps.
Gamstop contains links on its website to organizations that can help individuals with gambling in relation to arcades, betting shops, offline bingo, betting shops, and bookmakers. The details of other support agencies can also be found on the website, which can provide emotional and family support and help with gambling-related debt.
What Effects Does Self-Exclusion Have?
Once the self-exclusion is in place, the person who has requested it will be prevented from accessing any online gambling accounts registered with the Gambling Commission that match the details provided during the Gamstop registration process.
If the individual has any withdrawable funds in one or more of the gambling accounts affected by the self-exclusion, these online casinos (or other gambling platforms) are required under the terms of their licence to return these funds to the individual.
Once the selected self-exclusion period has ended, the individual has two choices. If they choose to deactivate the self-exclusion, they must contact the Gamstop contact center by telephone. Once a deactivation has been requested, a twenty-four-hour cooling-off period will apply, after which the self-exclusion will be lifted.
Alternatively, the individual may decide to extend the self-exclusion period and can do so for a further six-month, one-year, or five-year period. This can be done by contacting the Gamstop contact center or accessing the previously set up online account.
The Effectiveness of Gamstop
In January 2021, Gamstop published a report assessing the overall effectiveness of the scheme. The report showed that more than 80% of Gamstop users found that the scheme was effective across various measures, with 84% of users stating that registering for the self-exclusion service made them feel safer from gambling-related harm.
Further, the report found that 82% of users reduced their gambling or stopped gambling entirely after registering for the self-exclusion service. Overall, the conclusion was that the Gamstop scheme is successfully helping people make healthier choices around gambling and is a valuable tool.
To continue to be as effective as possible, Gamstop introduced new measures in 2020 whereby operators were required to check their entire customer base every twenty-four hours. This ensures that anyone registered with the scheme will not receive direct marketing from a gambling site with which they’re registered.
How Do I Know if an Online Casino is Gamstop-Registered?
You should be able to find these details relatively easily on the platform’s website. You may find the information you need in the footer of the home page, or it is often within the ‘Responsible Gambling’ (or similarly named) page of the site.
You can also access a list of all participating organizations on Gamstop’s website, which is regularly updated.
Should You Play at Non-Gamstop Casinos?
For a casino in the UK to operate legally online, it must be licensed by the Gambling Commission – and to be eligible for this licence, the platform has to be registered with Gamstop. Playing at a UK-based online casino that isn’t registered with Gamstop is therefore not recommended, as it means – by default – that the organization is operating without a licence.
If an online casino doesn’t hold a licence from a robust overseeing body (in the UK, this is the Gambling Commission), this could put those playing on the platform at considerable risk. For example, there’s a chance that an unregulated, unlicensed online platform could be a scam organization. Using an unlicensed casino means a player is outside of the protective umbrella of the Gambling Commission, which could put the individual’s funds and personal details at risk.
What About Non-UK-Based Online Casinos?
Gamstop can only be used by those who are residents of the UK, and it has no jurisdiction regarding casinos based in other countries. When considering using an online casino located abroad, ensure that it is licensed by a robust regulator, such as the GGL, that oversees gambling operations in Germany.
It’s also vital to bear in mind that the nature of gambling regulations varies from territory to territory, and some national regulators are known not to be as stringent as others. In practice, this could mean that a practice banned by a regulator in one country is permissible in another territory by its own overseeing body.
Gamstop has proved to be a very useful tool for those who wish to limit or control their gambling, who want to take a break from gambling, or who have concerns that they’re developing an unhealthy habit.
Knowing that to be awarded their licence from the UK Gambling Commission, an online casino must register with the Gamstop scheme can offer players peace of mind that the platform is committed to acting ethically and responsibly and is also abiding by all the relevant regulations.
While it’s possible to play at a casino that isn’t registered with Gamstop, it’s highly advisable to avoid doing so. If an online gambling platform isn’t on board with Gamstop, it’s not licensed – meaning it’s operating illegally.
Protect yourself by choosing an online casino registered with Gamstop, and know that, should you need it, the tools to get on top of gambling that’s become an unhealthy habit are at hand.