Glue or twist? Imminent review fuels debate over gambling regulations

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Sheila Amedoda

3 minute read

The government’s plan to update gambling regulations must balance campaigners’ calls for stricter safeguards and warnings from stakeholders that further measures could stifle the industry and fuel betting in the market black.

In 2020 the government announced it was gathering evidence for a review of the Gambling Act 2005 as it wanted to ensure the industry’s regulatory regime was able to protect people in the middle an explosion of online betting operators in recent years.

Confirmation by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that the gambling white paper will be published “in the coming weeks” has intensified the debate among activists who want more guarantees and stakeholders eager to ensure that any new measures do not harm the industry or encourage unlicensed betting. .

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the industry’s leading body, has urged the government to take an evidence-based approach and argued the industry is already doing its part to promote safe gambling.

campaigners argue the industry could do more to protect people from the financial and mental health dangers of problem gambling

In recent years the government has introduced measures to make betting safer, including reducing the maximum bet to £2 at fixed odds betting terminals – electronic machines that offer games such as roulette –, banning gambling with credit cards and introducing a strict online betting age. and identity checks and voluntary checks.

But campaigners argue the industry could do more to protect people from the financial and mental dangers of problem gambling, which the NHS and other groups like GamCare seek to tackle.

“Priority policies we expect to see in the white paper include a strong crackdown on gambling advertising; proper affordability checks…a legal levy that will remove industry influence on research, education and treatment; wagering limits to align online products with games in betting shops; and the creation of an ombudsman to ensure consumer redress,” said Will Prochaska, chief strategy officer at Gambling with Lives, a charity created by families bereaved by gambling-related suicides. The House.

The gambling sector has declined. Representatives of some of the biggest gambling companies told Treasury and Revenue and Customs officials in October that tougher rules could jeopardize more than £3billion in taxes that the industry pays every year and fuels gambling on the black market, according to media reports.

They pointed to a 2021 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by the BGC, which showed that the number of customers using unlicensed betting sites had increased by almost 200,000 in two years.

However, the Gambling Commission, which regulates the industry, argued that the danger of the black market was overstated.

“It’s not the overwhelming risk it’s sometimes portrayed as, nor an excuse not to address some of the extremes we see in the regulated industry,” Andrew Rhodes, the Commission’s chief executive, said in a speech in April. .

Carolyn Harris, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Gambling Harms Group, said The House: “The great irony is that the current and real threat is not the unlicensed market, but licensed operators in the UK offering totally inadequate consumer protection.”

Michael Dugher, the chief executive of the BGC, has urged the government not to ‘bow to the anti-gambling lobby’ after Gambling Commission figures showed problem gambling rates had fallen to 0.2 % in the year to March 2022, compared to 0.4% in the year to March 2021.

“These latest figures…will no doubt be a profound disappointment for anti-gambling bans and should be a wake-up call to ministers to ensure future changes are carefully balanced, proportionate and targeted,” he said in a press release in May.

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