UK Lawmakers Target PM Ahead Of Landmark Industry Update

November 25, 2021
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has received a list of regulatory changes a group of lawmakers want to be addressed in the government’s white paper on the ongoing Gambling Act review.

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has received a list of regulatory changes a group of lawmakers want to be addressed in the government’s white paper on the ongoing Gambling Act review.

A joint letter sent by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling-Related Harm (APPG) and Peers for Gambling Reform on November 17 calls for online stakes comparable with the £2 fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT) stake limit.

The letter also included calls for more stringent affordability checks, banning inducements to gamble, tougher regulations for VIP schemes, stricter ad controls, a statutory industry levy to fund addiction services, loot box regulation and a gambling ombudsman.

Members of the APPG made similar inquiries about the measures included in the government white paper to Chris Philp, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, during a House of Commons debate on November 18.

The white paper is set to be published within the coming months, according to Philp.

Signatories of the letter say they are not opposed to “properly regulated” gambling, but demand immediate action to tackle gambling-related harms in the country.

A copy of the letter was sent to Philp as well as Nadine Dorries, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), responded to the lawmakers demands on social media, saying it “flushed out the issue”.

“What all these bishops and peers want to do is to curb betting because they are just anti-gambling. What we actually need to do is to curb problem gambling (the 0.3 percent) — fortunately the government shares this (evidence-led) approach,” Dugher said.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, Gamban co-founder and the director of Clean Up Gambling, replied to Dugher saying the rates of problem and at-risk gambling for online slots are 45 percent.

Zarb-Cousin said the higher at-risk rate is because “unlike on venue based machines, stakes are unlimited online”. He went on to question whether the BGC “oppose bringing online slots into line with FOBTs so they’re £2 a spin?”.

The publication of the letter comes as MPs in the UK are under increased public pressure to distance themselves from their secondary jobs, following an ongoing national scandal.

The Gambling Health Alliance, a coalition of policymakers, non-governmental organisations and charities, which includes the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), has taken the opportunity to call on MPs to refuse funding and gifts from the gambling industry.

A recent independent poll commissioned by the RSPH revealed 76 percent of the public are against the gambling industry “having influence over politicians”.

The poll followed an independent audit earlier this year which found 28 MPs were beneficiaries of gambling industry wages and gifts totalling almost £225,000.

The RSPH has previously recommended the government treats gambling as a public health issue in its recent report, which estimated the annual societal cost of gambling-related harms is £1.2bn.

Dr Jyotsna Vohra, RSPH’s director of policy, said at this “crucial time” for gambling legislation, MPs need to be “vigilant” to avoid conflicts of interest in order to protect public health.

“It is vital that the changes to the Gambling Act are evidence-based and effectively reduce the harms produced by gambling,” Vohra said.

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