UK MPs Back Gambling Reform At Party Conferences

October 5, 2021
The UK's largest political parties have discussed the country’s impending gambling reforms at their annual conferences, as polling firm Survation reveals MPs and voters “overwhelmingly” support change.


The UK's largest political parties have discussed the country’s impending gambling reforms at their annual conferences, as polling firm Survation reveals MPs and voters “overwhelmingly” support change.

On Monday (October 4), cross-party think tank the Social Market Foundation (SMF) hosted a debate at the Conservative Party Conference on whether gambling is a “traditional pastime or modern menace”.

During the talk, Carl Shoben, Survation’s director of strategic communications, revealed that a poll of MPs taken at the start of the year shows they are only slightly less in favour of gambling-related restrictions than a survey of Conservative voters.

Comparatively, Labour MPs are slightly more in favour of gambling-related restrictions than their voters.

The poll found 70 percent of Conservative MPs and 92 percent of Labour MPs believe people should be protected from losing more money than they can afford.

When it comes to “greater regulation”, 64 percent of Conservative MPs agree there is a need for it, while 92 percent of Labour MPs back it too.

Additionally, 43 percent of Conservative MPs and 76 percent of Labour MP’s agree there should be more restrictions on gambling advertising.

In April 2020, Survation carried out tracking research into gambling attitudes in the gambling population for the Clean Up Gambling campaign.

Similarly to MPs, people overwhelmingly supported some form of affordability check when depositing more than £100 a month, with 72 percent in favour and only 10 percent against.

“There was no statistical difference between areas, demographics, political leaning or the so-called red wall areas. Also, a total ban for advertising is supported by 52 percent of people,” Shoben said.

Fellow panellist Dr Heather Wardle, gambling research, policy and practice expert, explained the narrative in the UK should be that only a “tiny minority” of gamblers would be affected by tighter restrictions.

“During COVID, we found over 60 percent of regular sports bettors wanted operators to do more to protect them. There is a mandate to support a change from those who participate in these activities,” Wardle said.

Wardle believes the debate is not just about gambling reform, but also health inequality and wellbeing due to the harms it causes.

Living in the most deprived area in the UK makes you seven times more likely to be affected by problematic gambling compared with living in the richest area, according to Wardle’s estimates.

“Gambling harm is falling on places that have the worst resources to deal with it. We need to start considering change and reform, as well as a mandate to improve health and wellbeing for the better,” she said.

The panel at the Conservative Party Conference also included MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Richard Holden, members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm.

Duncan Smith said reform of the industry is “absolutely necessary” and that self-regulation for the industry has failed.

The MP repeated the APPG’s previous calls for clear affordability checks to be introduced, “at least” a £2 online stake limit for “addictive games”, the banning of VIP inducements, the creation of a gambling ombudsman and an advertising ban.

Carolyn Harris MP, the chair of the APPG, spoke at the Labour Party Conference event hosted by SMF on September 26.

Harris and her fellow panellists also called for reform, with her saying it was not about “prohibition” but about “protecting people who cannot protect themselves”.

Last week, a new Department of Health report estimated the cost of gambling harms to English society to be in excess of £1.27bn a year.

Half of the estimated economic burden is a direct cost to the government, which is “likely to be underestimated due to a lack of available evidence”, according to Public Health England’s (PHE) evidence review of gambling-related harms.

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