The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has vowed to act after a BBC expose suggested the government's multi-operator self-exclusion scheme is failing.
A BBC Five Live reporter signed up to the scheme in the town of Grimsby and had his name and photograph circulated. However, he was able to play on betting machines in 16 shops before finding one in which he was challenged and asked to leave.
The self-exclusion scheme for betting shops in the UK, launched in 2016, is run by the Senet Group subsidiary, Multi-Operator Self Exclusion Scheme (MOSES).
Sarah Gardner, the Gambling Commission's executive director, said: “The result of the BBC investigation is concerning and we'll be making our own inquiries into what happened in this case.
“We're determined to drive improvements in behaviour across the industry in terms of the effort they put into reducing gambling-related harm, and it really is getting to the stage where there is nowhere to hide for businesses who don't take this seriously.”
Operators, generally, are accountable to the Gambling Commission under the terms of the licence to operate, for their work on self-exclusion.
A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) questioned the validity of the BBC report, but admitted that the system is “not without its flaws”.
The spokesman added: “This is a disappointing result. However, it was conducted in artificial circumstances, involving a small sample, over a short period of time and the individual concerned was not a problem gambler or previously known to shop staff.
“By its very nature those who self-exclude are normally known to the staff in the shops they exclude from.
“In reality an independent review of the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme revealed that 83% of participants agreed it had been effective in reducing or stopping their gambling activity, and 71% said they have not attempted to use their nominated betting shops since signing up.”
The problems were highlighted months before the likely introduction of the online National Online Self-Exclusion Scheme (NOSES), which will be known as GAMSTOP, in spring 2018.
The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) is leading the implementation of the scheme, with support from business services company KPMG.
Related article: New UK self-exclusion scheme named GAMSTOP