UK White Paper Likely To Contain Statutory Levy, Says Labour MP

March 23, 2023
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The UK’s ongoing Gambling Act review white paper is likely to call for a mandatory levy for gambling treatment and research, says veteran gambling campaigner and Labour MP Carolyn Harris.

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The UK’s ongoing Gambling Act review white paper is likely to call for a mandatory levy for gambling treatment and research, says veteran gambling campaigner and Labour MP Carolyn Harris.

The claims come as sides in the UK’s ongoing Gambling Act review white paper express frustration with delays, according to written evidence from a wide range of industry stakeholders and a discussion held by the Labour Campaign for Gambling Reform in Westminster on Wednesday (March 22).

The campaign, which was instrumental in slashing stake limits for fixed-odds betting machines to £2, was founded by Small and Medium Size Enterprises for the Labour Party (SME4Labour) and is chaired by Harris, who also chairs the gambling-related harm all-party parliamentary group (APPG).

Charles Napier, SME4Labour vice chair, said “everyone on all sides is going crazy waiting” for the white paper's release, as he opened the roundtable discussion at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.

Harris explained her group’s ultimate goal is the inclusion of a statutory levy, which would likely require licensees to pay a set percentage of gross gambling yield (GGR) to an independent body tasked with reducing gambling harm.

“I think there will be a statutory levy, I'm getting the mood music that says yes. That would be a massive result. I may even retire from gambling if I get that,” Harris said.

Harris believes that without a statutory levy, those pushing to reform the industry would have “failed”, as “we wouldn’t have independent research or be able to inform recovery and treatment, making everything else a waste of time”.

The MP is confident there will “be little bits” of the things her APPG is pushing for, such as the creation of an ombudsman.

However, Harris added that the “jury is out” regarding introducing online stake limits in line with the land-based industry and that it is unlikely there will be a complete advertising ban.

“We should be at a point now that we have had enough gambling ministers and we should be putting pen to paper,” Harris concluded.

Stuart Andrew, new parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), only officially had gambling added to his remit on March 8.

The meeting was held a day after written evidence for the DCMS committee inquiry into gambling regulation was published.

The inquiry was launched in December 2022 and is looking into the progress the government has made to ensure regulation can keep up with innovations in online gambling and the links between gambling, broadcasting and sport.

In particular, written evidence was asked to address five key questions on the scale of gambling-related harm in the UK.

These questions cover what the key priorities in the white paper should be, defining the term "gambling", determining whether it is possible for a regulator to stay on top of innovation online and what additional problems arise when online gambling companies are based outside the UK.

There are a total of 91 published evidence submissions from a wide range of influential stakeholders, including the Gambling Commission, operator bet365, public broadcaster Channel 4, the British Medical Association (BMA), the DCMS, academic researchers and trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).

Almost all of the submissions read by VIXIO call on the long-awaited release of the white paper and call for an evidence-based approach to any desired regulatory changes.

In the Gambling Commission’s response, the regulator stated that “there is evidence of operators making improvements, but our casework continues to identify too many egregious breaches of regulations, in particular rules designed to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, and to prevent vulnerable people suffering from gambling-related harm”.

Public health bodies and medical experts took an even less favourable view, with the BMA stating that the “current regulation of gambling is inadequate, neither preventing people, especially young people, from becoming gamblers nor effectively managing people who have developed problems”.

Operators seemed primarily concerned with the impact of potential online stake limits and the implementation of affordability checks.

Bet365 said: “Checks must be tried and tested before they are implemented and we stand ready to support this process. We know from our own experience that only a small minority of customers will ever share financial information on request, and it is essential we get this right to avoid driving players into the black market."

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