UK lawmakers are demanding that the government urgently implement changes in the Gambling Act review White Paper, which has been broadly welcomed by industry campaigners.
The main changes proposed in the white paper are a statutory levy to fund research education and treatment, tougher affordability thresholds set at £1000 a month, new stake limits for online slot games that will be between £2 and £15 per spin, and consulting on measures to give greater protections for 18 to 24 year olds.
Additionally, there will be player protection checks, extra powers for the Gambling Commission to tackle black market operators, rules to prevent bonus offers from harming vulnerable people, a new ombudsman, an attempt to close loopholes that allow under-18s to gamble, and a review of the current horse race betting levy to ensure the sport “thrives”.
Reacting to the release of the white paper, Carolyn Harris MP, chair of the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), said “job done” in Parliament today (April 27).
The APPG achieved many of its recommendations, such as the introduction of an ombudsman, increased parity between online and land-based legislation, and affordability checks.
Harris called the occasion “long overdue”, but said “swift action is now needed” to ensure that “urgent legislative change is made where it is necessary”.
She then questioned the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Lucy Frazer, on whether the changes will be brought in with no delay.
Frazer reassured Harris that action will happen “swiftly”, and despite warnings that “various technical consultations need to take place”, said the process would be done “as quickly as possible”.
The white paper itself lists several methods to enact the changes it proposes. Many will come through consultations, but others will need primary or secondary legislation.
In parliament, Frazer also ensured that “player protection checks” at lower levels will be “seamless, frictionless” and only “affect 20 percent of people” that “won't know they are taking place”.
Gambling with Lives, a charity which was mentioned by Frazer in her announcement to Parliament for its instrumental campaign work, welcomed its victory “against the powerful gambling lobby”.
Gambling with Lives' co-founder Liz Ritchie said: “After a long fight we’ve won concessions on some of the key areas, but so much more needs to happen to reduce the horrendous harm caused by one of the most loosely regulated gambling industries in the world.”
However, The Big Step, a campaign led by the charity to remove gambling sports sponsorship, took issue with the government's claim that it is trying to protect young people, when it has “done nothing to reduce or restrict gambling advertising” in the paper.
APPG member Iain Duncan Smith MP similarly questioned in parliament the lack of advertising restrictions in the white paper, in particular relating to sports partnerships, adding that the voluntary move by the Premier League to ban front-of-shirt sponsors will have a nominal impact on exposure.
The Social Market Foundation (SMF), an independent public policy think-tank that claims to have first proposed the introduction of a statutory levy, is “pleased to see that some important measures are being introduced”.
Senior fellow at the SMF, James Noyes, said this includes the levy and “options to limit stakes for products that are linked to an elevated risk of harm such as online slots, plans to update design rules for online products such as speed of play, and checks to understand if a customer’s gambling is unaffordable.”
The Betting & Gaming Council, a trade group, said: “We welcome the decision to reject proposals from anti-gambling prohibitionists for blanket, low level and intrusive affordability checks, as well as their calls for bans on advertising, sports sponsorship and consumer promotions, which would harm our best-loved sports like horseracing and football, threaten jobs and drive customers to the growing unsafe, unregulated gambling black market online."