Reactions to the UK’s Gambling Act Review
by Glenn Baird - December 8, 2020
The announcement that the gambling industry has been waiting to hear has now been announced, meaning the 2005 Gambling Act will now be reviewed and updated to bring it in line with changes that have occurred over the past 15 years.
The priorities for change will involve advertising, with a push to have it removed from sport; and consumer safety, including maximum stakes for slot games.
The ultimate goal of the review will be to bring the gambling industry “into the digital age”, something that had not been considered back in 2005.
The UK Gambling Commission will sit at the centre of the review, helping to guide and also preparing itself for the impact of change on its own operations.
A spokesperson for the UKGC had this to say:
“We welcome the government’s Review of the Gambling Act which will also consider our powers and resources. Our job is to make gambling safer and the Review creates an opportunity to build on the progress we have made to protect players and the public – such as strengthened age and identity verification, strict new guidance for so-called VIP schemes and banning gambling with credit cards.
“As the statutory adviser to the Secretary of State we look forward to contributing our advice to help with the government’s Review and we will continue our close working relationship with DCMS as the Review proceeds. We’ve made it clear to gambling operators that we will continue to work at pace to take action to protect consumers while the Review of the Gambling Act is underway.”
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), a organisation made up of representatives from the UK’s leading operators, also had plenty to say on the matter. Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the BGC had this to say:
“As the standards body for the regulated industry, we strongly welcome the launch of the Government’s Review,” Dugher said. “We called for it to be wide-ranging and evidence-led, and it provides an important opportunity to drive further changes on safer gambling introduced by the industry in the past year.
“Problem gambling may be low at around 0.7% and as the DCMS has said there is no evidence that it has increased in the last 20 years, but one problem gambler is one too many. So I hope Ministers will focus in with laser-like precision on problem gamblers and those at risk. The Government must ensure that any changes do not drive people to the unregulated black market online, where there aren’t any safeguards to protect vulnerable people.”
One change that we already know will come into fruition is the change to the legal age of National Lottery participation from 16 to 18. This is the first confirmed regulatory change but there will undoubtably be more to come. Dugher warned that restrictions could have a negative impact on the industry if they are made too severe:
“Our members do not allow betting by under-18s, so we welcome in particular confirmation of the Government’s decision to ban 16 and 17-year-olds from playing the National Lottery. It’s got to be one rule for all.
“The review must also take account of the huge economic contribution made by the betting and gaming industry, which employs over 100,000 people. This includes £8.7 billion a year in Gross Value Added and over £3.2 billion to HM Treasury in tax.
“In addition, horse racing receives over £350 million per year through the horse racing industry levy, media rights and sponsorships, while betting companies spend over £40m a year on the English Football League and its clubs.
“Other sports, including rugby league, snooker and darts also receive millions of pounds in sponsorship from our members, while casinos contribute over £120 million to the tourism economy each year.
“Millions of people enjoy an occasional flutter on sports, on bingo, on the Lottery, in casinos and online. I hope that everyone has their say in the Review – including millions of customers who enjoy betting safely, as well as the hardworking men and women employed in the industry.”
Flutter Entertainment is one of the UK’s most influential gambling businesses, owning brands such as Ladbrokes and Coral. Their chairman Ian Proctor spoke about looking forward to working alongside the government:
This is a really significant moment and I welcome the launch of this review. It will allow us to build on recent efforts by the industry to improve customer safety for the millions of people who enjoy our products and in particular help the small number who have experienced problems with their gambling.
“We must consider all options on the table and take forward policies where the evidence shows they will achieve meaningful, beneficial change that genuinely helps those that need it. We look forward to working with the Government on this and feeding in our evidence-based
Carolyn Harris, Swansea East MP and Chair of the All-Party Political Group on Gambling Related Harm has been leading the charge to see the act updated for sometime now:
“I very much welcome the launch of the Gambling Review, something which I and many others have long been calling for. I hope we are at a turning point in the reform of our wholly outdated gambling legislation. Too many families are impacted by gambling related harm and we must protect those most at risk through legislation and policy change.
“Our current legislation is analogue legislation in a digital age, online gambling is unregulated in many areas and mandatory deposit limits and affordability mechanisms are essential. Gamblers need an Ombudsman to support redress and statutory levy must be put in place to support research, education and treatment. The Regulator must also be overhauled. This is a once in a generation chance to improve much needed gambling regulation in this country and change cannot come soon enough.”
Vice chair of the APPG Rt Hon Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP added:
“The APPG has taken huge amounts of evidence from people whose lives have been blighted and torn apart by the terrible aftermath of gambling addiction. The deregulated gambling industry has, throughout the last few years, paid only lip-service to the nature of the damage that has been done to people up and down the country.
“Despite all of the evidence, the industry has pursued people who have a serious gambling problem, incentivising them to gambling more through their terrible VIP rooms.
“It is quite clear that we can no longer allow the industry to regulate itself and it is time, therefore, for balance to be restored, particularly now the advent of new technology has meant that gambling has never been easier to access or promote than it is now. This review needs to be clear headed and to ensure that the nature of the regulation and the regulator is robust and clear.”
Organisations like GamCare will see the review as an opportunity for to make more of a difference.
Anna Hemmings, CEO at GamCare, commented: “As the largest provider of gambling support and treatment services across Great Britain, GamCare speaks to upwards of 40,000 people via the National Gambling Helpline and in our treatment services each year, and we are uniquely positioned to represent the voice and experience of our service users as part of the Gambling Act Review.
“We welcome the Review, and the opportunity to have a wide-ranging debate about how to best improve services and support for people at risk from gambling harms. In particular we know how important it is to ensure wider access to early, confidential advice. Our priority will be to ensure that more people can access support earlier.
“We look forward to providing a full and considered response as part of the consultation process.”