The Data Shed in Leeds wins national GAMSTOP gambling self-exclusion scheme contract

Data experts: Ed Thewlis, right, co-founder of The Data Shed, alongside Stew Norriss, head of architecture and security, at the firm's Leeds office in Mabgate Mills.               Picture: Simon Hulme
Data experts: Ed Thewlis, right, co-founder of The Data Shed, alongside Stew Norriss, head of architecture and security, at the firm's Leeds office in Mabgate Mills. Picture: Simon Hulme

A data services firm is set to play a role in helping prevent gambling addiction after being appointed a key technology partner for a national self-exclusion scheme.

The Data Shed, based in Leeds, has won a major contract with GAMSTOP, a central scheme that allows people to exclude themselves from online gambling websites.

Ed Thewlis, co-founder and chief technology officer of The Data Shed, said the firm was looking forward to the challenge of dealing with the industry at full capacity.

Mr Thewlis said during busy days for the gambling industry, such as the Cheltenham Festival, the platform will be dealing with thousands of records per second.

Previously punters wanting to exclude themselves from online gambling had to do so with individual operators.

However, all British licensed online gambling operators will soon need to be part of the GAMSTOP scheme, once it becomes a licence condition in early 2019.

“It’s not as simple as saying one operator can fix the problem,” Mr Thewlis told The Yorkshire Post. “It needs to be an industry wide delivery. If I was blocked from one single site and I have some sort of compulsive behaviour that’d mean I could then move onto the next site where I could gamble.”

The contract win will create ten extra jobs at The Data Shed’s Leeds office.

Tom Riordan, CEO at Leeds City Council, said: “It’s great to see the growth of another tech company in Leeds, leading to more high-value jobs in the city.

“Leeds is home to a number of successful tech firms and it seems appropriate that we are using this expertise to work on social responsibility projects such as this.”

Mr Thewlis said that the deal with GAMSTOP was a representation of some of the firm’s values in terms of “using data for good rather than pure commercial gain”.

He added: “It also gives us a great grounding to demonstrate our skills.”

The Data Shed was chosen by GAMSTOP as a result of its ability to provide round the clock technical support, Mr Thewlis said, as well as its experience of dealing with big data.

Fiona Palmer, CEO of GAMSTOP, said: “The majority of online gambling customers gamble for fun and within their own limits.

“However, we recognise there are people who need help to reduce or stop their gambling and GAMSTOP was set up to provide one way of helping by enabling them to self-exclude from multiple operators at one time.

“We were looking at enhancing the service for the consumer and having met the team at The Data Shed, we were impressed by both their expert knowledge of data as well as their wide cross section of experience.

“Our work with The Data Shed will enable all self-excluded gamblers to be confident that our enhanced system will be robust and able to provide the service that they need.”

The Data Shed started working with GAMSTOP last year through a transition period, with the platform having gone through a beta launch in April 2018.

Recently, the scheme came under fire after it emerged that users could bypass the system by simply changing a couple of letters of their surname and using a different email address. Mr Thewlis said: “There is a significant learning period. We are currently actively working with operators to understand both the behaviour and the data being sent through to us.

“From our perspective we expect the scheme to improve significantly.”

He added that the platform will get better over time as they get new feedback.

Building a shed for all businesses

The Data Shed was co-founded by Anna Sutton and Ed Thewlis in 2014.

The business does part consultancy work and part product development.

“We’ve been working with a variety of businesses over that period of time,” Ed Thewlis said. “Some nearby and some quite far flung.”

The business currently has 32 employees but Mr Thewlis says they’ll probably be up to about 45 this year.

He added: “Right now for us it’s really exciting in that businesses have really started to become data savvy because they realise that they are responsible more than anything else for the data that they hold.”