UK White Paper Called Balanced, As Good As Could Be Expected

May 17, 2023
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UK online slots stake limits are likely to be £5 per spin and £2 for gamblers under 25, two gambling experts have predicted.

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UK online slots stake limits are likely to be £5 per spin and £2 for gamblers under 25, two gambling experts have predicted.

The long-awaited 2005 Gambling Act white paper proposed limits of £2 to £15 per spin, with special care for younger legal gamblers.

Regulators will probably stick to a goal of aligning online slots stakes with land-based stakes, which are £1, £2 and £5 per spin, said Dan Waugh of Regulus Partners.

Overall, the review was “coherent and balanced, and probably as balanced as the industry could have expected,” said Bahar Alaeddini of Harris Hagan law firm.

The pair were part of a webinar, “UK White Paper: The End of the Beginning”, held on Tuesday (May 16) by VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

One problem is the blizzard of consultations that will be held over the coming months by the Gambling Commission and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).

Alaeddini and Waugh wondered whether the commission was staffed and equipped for the task of filling in the details lacking in the report.

The land-based industry will be most keen to adopt recommendations as soon as possible, proposals which include loosening restrictions on the number of slot machines in casinos and cashless gambling, Waugh said.

For the entire industry, it will be key to both make its case and deflect “clearly misleading claims” with credible evidence, he said.

Lobbying will need to be more convincing than simply “tickets to Wembley and Wimbledon” for members of parliament, Waugh said.

Affordability limits have been set higher than expected, compared with previous leaks of drafts, Alaeddini said.

Although “disagreeable checks” are promised to be held to a minimum, they will affect the biggest-spending gamblers, on which much of the industry relies, and the ones most likely to drift to unlicensed operators, Waugh said.

There are key issues surrounding a proposed “super-powered” consumer ombudsman, such as what cases can be referred, what remedies will it have and what will constitute “excessive or unaffordable” gambling, Alaeddini said.

Waugh said one potential concern is a call for public-health messaging on risks associated with gambling, to be developed by the DCMS, Gambling Commission and Department of Health and Social Care.

The involvement of health authorities who have been vocal on the perceived risks of gambling suggests tobacco-style messaging could be imposed, he said.

That could mean an “attempt to stigmatise that could drive [gambling] underground”, he said.

On Tuesday, the National Health Service released its 2021 Health Survey for England, which detailed gambling participation and participation in at-risk or problem gambling.

Participation in all forms of gambling fell to 50 percent from 54 percent in 2018, while online gambling participation rose to 10 percent from 9 percent, excluding the National Lottery, the NHS said.

The report found 2.8 percent of adults were engaged in at-risk or problem gambling, while 0.3 percent engaged in problem gambling, the report said.

The NHS, however, cautioned that results were not comparable to previous surveys, as data was collected during COVID-19 lockdowns, which affect not only how it was collected but also the availability of land-based gambling outlets.

Finally, gambling operators elsewhere should pay attention to regulatory changes in the UK, still the world’s largest regulated online gambling market, Waugh said.

Gambling regulators are increasingly talking to each other and are keen to adopt techniques they believe will curb risky or black-market gambling, he said.

“It’s critical that multi-nationals don’t look at it and say, ‘it’s only Britain, we don’t have to worry’,” Waugh said.

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