Huddleston Cautious On Affordability In Latest UK Debate

March 30, 2022
​​​​​​​As the long wait for the UK white paper persists, politicians continue to debate the big issues, with the minister overseeing the review appearing to tread a careful line on affordability checks and advertising.


As the long wait for the UK white paper persists, politicians continue to debate the big issues, with the minister overseeing the review appearing to tread a careful line on affordability checks and advertising.

On Tuesday (March 29), a debate in Westminster Hall on gambling-related harms was led by MP Carolyn Harris, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm, in which she repeated calls for “urgent reform” to tackle “outdated” and “ineffective” gambling laws.

Nigel Huddleston, culture secretary and boss of gambling minister Chris Philp, agreed that all in attendance were committed to reform.

The minister said he absolutely recognises the “severity” of harm that gambling disorders can cause and promised the government would soon respond to the recent Jack Ritchie inquiry findings he described as an important “call for action”.

However, Huddleston reiterated what other government ministers have said in recent debates, refusing to “pre-announce” what will be in the white paper.

He did tout the use of technology and data as key to achieving the desired balance when it comes to affordability checks that do not push players to the black market and protecting consumers through the creation of a single customer view (SCV).

When it comes to gambling advertising, the minister agreed that action must be taken against non-targeted advertising, but seemed to distance the government from the possibility of completely banning advertising by suggesting it is a valuable means to distinguish licensed operators.

Harris argued that the “most important” reform is the need to introduce a “centralised and independent affordability assessment”, suggesting it be set at £100 a month on net deposits as it would allow “the vast majority of gamblers to continue unchanged”.

The head of the APPG wants it to be mandatory for banks to offer gambling blocks, a gambling ombudsman to be created, a statutory 1 percent “smart levy” on industry revenue to be introduced and stake limits for online gambling, including a £2 stake on “harmful” online content.

Aaron Bell MP, representing Newcastle-under-Lyme and a former employee of bet365, warned that the government must be mindful of driving consumers to the black market by introducing changes that could be “very intrusive”, such as affordability checks requiring the likes of payslips and bank statements.

Bell said bet365 goes “above and beyond” its regulatory and industry guidance, adding that the government could learn a lot from the operator, even praising it for not relocating to Gibraltar to avoid paying UK tax rates.

However, Iain Duncan Smith, also a member of the APPG and the ruling Conservative party, claimed his party and others support the case for reform and it is "not feasible" to trust the industry to self-regulate, dismissing the threat that reform would “plunge” people into betting on the black market.

In a separate debate on gambling issues the day before, the Lord Bishop of St Albans, a long-time campaigner for gambling reform, questioned what plans the National Health Service (NHS) has to secure a long-term independent funding settlement for its gambling treatment services, following the announcement it will no longer accept money from GambleAware.

“It is quite extraordinary that, at a time when the NHS is in such dire straits, with such financial pressures, we are picking up the costs incurred by an industry,” the Lord Bishop said on March 28.

Lord Kamall, parliamentary under-secretary of state for innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care, explained that the department, NHS England and NHS Improvement are currently undertaking a review to try and create “a coherent pathway of advice and treatment for those experiencing gambling-related harm”.

"We are looking at how we can allocate funding in the NHS long-term plan to tackle gambling addiction and to ensure that we focus more on prevention rather than simply dealing with people once they have a problem."

Several NHS senior gambling addiction experts have called on operators to pay a new multi-million-pound statutory levy to help prevent and treat problem gambling.

When questioned about a potential levy, Lord Kamall said he understood the calls for a compulsory one to be introduced and that the government is “looking at this and considering all options”.

Our premium content is available to users of our services.

To view articles, please Log-in to your account, or sign up today for full access:

Opt in to hear about webinars, events, industry and product news

Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Get in touch to speak to a member of our team, and we’ll do our best to answer.
No items found.