Don't Wait On Gambling Curbs, Says Lord

April 28, 2022
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A member of the House of Lords who headed an influential report has called for action on UK gambling concerns without waiting for primary legislation.

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A member of the House of Lords who headed an influential report has called for action on UK gambling concerns without waiting for primary legislation.

Through licensing conditions and other measures, the Gambling Commission could move to institute changes such as affordability checks or data sharing on problem-gambling issues without waiting for legislation, which could take several years, said Michael Grade, who chaired the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry Committee.

“So much more could have been done, so many lives could have been saved,” he said on Wednesday (April 27) as part of the debate on the July 2020 “Gambling Harm: Time for Action” report.

The big change that would need legislation is a consumer ombudsman, which should remain separate from the Gambling Commission, Grade said.

The industry awaits the expected release of recommendations for changes to the 2005 Gambling Act.

Earlier this week, 888 Holdings, which is buying UK bookmaker William Hill, said fixed deposit and betting limits and enhanced affordability checks could potentially all be included in the white paper.

888 said it was preemptively planning to reduce affordability check triggers from £950 to £500, having previously set them at £2,000 last year.

“The nature of any new affordability policies remains unclear, and depending on the details, there could be an impact on the size of the addressable market,” the Gibraltar-based company said.

On Wednesday, GambleAware, an industry-funded charity, repeated its call for a mandatory 1 percent gambling levy to raise about £140m annually for treatment of problem gambling, prevention and research.

“Over 90 percent of treatment for gambling harm is accessed outside the NHS, more sustainable funding would help protect the NHS and allow it to focus primarily on treatment for those with more complex needs,” it said.

In February, the National Health Service called for an end to the industry funding for treatment and research.

In December 2020, a government response called a levy “an administratively complex and costly way of allocating money to fund programmes", compared with general taxation.

But it said it could consider all options including a levy, if voluntary funding proves inadequate.

Currently, there is a target for companies to donate 0.1 percent of revenue for gambling addiction issues. Between April and December last year, GambleAware received £16m in donations from the gambling industry.

Separately, the Local Government Association (LGA) said it supports a mandatory levy to fund “significant expansion of treatment and support for those experiencing gambling related harm throughout the country”.

It is also calling for local councils to get more powers to manage local gambling venues and to tackle problem gambling.

Local government currently has power over siting of casinos but not bookmaker shops, bingo halls or adult gaming centres, the association said.

Councils also need more power to change licence fees, which are set nationally and have not been raised since 2007, the LGA said.

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