In its latest annual report, the Jersey Gambling Commission also says that the outbreak hampered its planned work generally to develop support for Islanders affected by issues such as betting ‘addiction, excessive play or by the actions of a loved one’.
Chief executive Jason Lane said the pandemic had diverted the resources and attention of many of the charities the commission had hoped to work with in this area.
Mr Lane said: ‘The one area where progress proved more difficult was in respect of increasing the provision of services available for those who struggle with their gambling, either through an addiction, excessive play or by the actions of a loved one.
‘The commission takes its duties in respect of social responsibility extremely seriously. As noted in previous reports: “the commission will endeavour to develop relationships with specialist charities so that greater choice and support can be made available on Island in the future”.’
He added: ‘Taking this forward has proven particularly difficult because of the pandemic, as priorities have changed and organisations, for quite understandable reasons, have taken the opportunity to progress issues closer to home and requiring less engagement.
‘For that reason, the long-held ambition of the commission, creating an on-Island specialist treatment service for people struggling with gambling, was essentially put on hold during 2020.’
Mr Lane added that there were some positives to report during the year, such as the expansion of its radio and print advertising outreach programme and training initiatives it had carried out with the Government of Jersey and its ‘arms-length’ bodies.
The report says that last year saw shut-downs of large parts of the Island’s gambling industry, with both shop closures and event cancellations heavily affecting trade.
‘2020 brought a fresh set of challenges for sports-books and bookmakers, those two sectors reliant on sporting and athletic events to make their markets.
‘The requirement for social distancing combined with other Covid restrictions, initially cancelled and latterly reduced the number of team sports available to the betting industry.
‘While some horse races were permitted in the UK, the Jersey Race Club had to cancel the whole racing season, this in turn meant no on-course bookmaking could take place. This also had an adverse effect on the operation of traditional Crown and Anchor tables which are reliant on passing trade at the races, fêtes and fairs,’ it says.
According to the report, the pandemic accelerated an existing trend of decline in the number of bookmaking shops in the Island, which now stands at 22.