Author: Duncan Garvie - Founder and Trustee for BetBlocker
Story: For the last 12 years I have served as the Dispute Manager for a 3rd party Dispute Resolution service specialising in managing disputes between players and online gambling operators.
During this period the market has moved further and further towards regulation and players have become more aware of their rights. This has caused a substantial uptick (most notably after the introduction of the UKGC license) in the number of claims we were managing that related to gambling addiction and self-exclusions.
Many of these complaints recounted traumatic experiences that had profound consequences for the lives of the people impacted. Sadly, while these complaints were moving, we could not always, for a variety of reasons, help every complainant. As such, I started to look for other services to which we could direct complaints who were experiencing issues controlling their addiction.
From my perspective (I do understand there are different opinions on this matter), the most important first step in stopping gambling is taking steps to limit access to gambling. That is very difficult today, when we're all walking around with a casino, sportsbook, poker room and bingo hall in our pockets at all times! National Self-Exclusion schemes are a great tool, but as they only restrict licensed operators, leaving the illegal black market operators entirely accessible, they are only part of the solution. Based on this logic I went looking to find blocking softwares that we could direct people to.
I admit my naivety on this front, but I was shocked to realise that every available blocking software was commercial and wanted to charge gambling addicts for help. To me, price walls between gambling addicts and help are exacerbating the problem. A near universal consequence of gambling addiction is financial hardship. When a person is facing losing their home, or not knowing how they are going to pay for food or clothes for their children, they are not in a position to pay for blocking software either. Worse still a price wall ensures that those that are in the greatest need of support are the least able to access it.
I'm not criticising any of the commercial blocking softwares with this observation, any organisation that is trying to support people in recovery from gambling addiction is a-o-k in my book. But I did feel strongly at the time, and still do, that a better model needed to be found.
As such, in 2017 we decided to develop and distribute our own blocking software, free of charge, to anyone who needed it. By 2019 the service had grown so substantially that the Dispute Resolution business I worked for could no longer afford to sustain it, so we broke BetBlocker off from the company and established it as a charity in its own right. Since that point we have sought funding from within the industry to support the service and ensure it remains free for the tens of thousands of people that use it every day.
What we have learned along the way is that being able to offer BetBlocker free of charge has many benefits beyond the obvious greater accessibility for users:
- As BetBlocker doesn't require a subscription fee, we don't need to gather user information. We don't need your name, address, email address, phone number or payment details. So we don't collect them. You can use BetBlocker completely anonymously. All commercial blocking softwares have to gather extensive contact data on their users.
- BetBlocker does not need to align the block period to we offer with any subscription renewal period. We currently offer blocks ranging anywhere from 24 hours up to 5 years. No commercial blocking software can offer this flexibility.
- Non-continuous blocks! While we understand many of our users need a full restriction after a crisis point, we also understand that many people simply need a hand managing their gambling. They aren't at crisis point and don't want to stop completely, but do want to be able to plan ahead and manage their access to gambling responsibly. That's why we introduced our Calendaring feature - to allow users to plan ahead and set their restriction to turn on during the times they need it. Again, no other blocking software offers this option to users.
BetBlocker has been a project that has resulted in great personal growth for me personally. It is the single action I've taken that I am most proud of in my life. I hope that can help you or those you care about and if you have the time and the desire would love to hear from you about the impact BetBlocker has had on your life.
Take care of yourself,