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BlogThe Ongoing Wait for UK Gambling Reform

The Ongoing Wait for UK Gambling Reform

While the wait continues for the UK Government White Paper on gambling reform continues, just what might it contain? A parliamentary committee inquiry into the subject of gambling has produced some fascinating results.

The inquiry was set up three days before Christmas last year. Its aim is to look at how the government deals with the regulation of the UK gambling industry and the progress it has made.

In terms of progress, many are critical of the fact that manifesto promises to reform the industry made in 2019 still haven’t even seen a White Paper published.

The word is that the White Paper will be released soon. However, that has been promised on several occasions in the past year.

It’s clear that there is a need for a reform of the UK gambling laws. The last Gambling Act was passed 18 years ago and there was no online gambling at that time. Now that area of the industry is so important and an update of the gambling laws is long overdue.

The committee inquiry has received evidence from many interested parties. These include the medical profession, anti-gambling campaigners, sports bodies and the gambling industry itself.

One major question is just what is the level of gambling-related harm in the UK? The Gambling Research Group at Bournemouth University submitted written evidence to the inquiry. Their view is that the level is “likely much wider than is currently reported.”

Official figures put the level at only 0.2% and that has fallen in recent years. However, any such figure is dependent on people actually seeking help and becoming a statistic. The research group believes that only “a very small percentage of those who identify as problem gamblers seek help.” It’s a problem that affects all areas of the UK so why might people not be seeking help?

Reasons include stigma and doctors not always knowing where to refer those with gambling problems. The research group added that those with low to moderate problems with their gambling tend not to seek help. Then there are the others who are affected by someone’s gambling problems. They state that “this impact on affected others is often underestimated and underappreciated.”

Just how therefore does the Bournemouth Research Group believe the UK Government should deal with the problems caused by gambling. Their written evidence calls for a statutory level to be introduced. This could then be used to help treat those suffering from gambling harm and also aid gambling research which they say funds for “are limited.”

There have been reports that the White Paper may well introduce a statutory level. The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has reacted to the news this is being considered.

Michael Dugher is the CEO of the BGC and said he was “relaxed about a so-called statutory levy.” He stressed that BGC members already make voluntary donations. Mr Dugher added that last year the BGC proposed a mandatory levy to the UK Government. However, his concern is for land-based operators who already find themselves “under greater cost pressures.”

Introducing new rules for the online gambling industry is likely to be the main concern in the White Paper. Previous ministers in charge of overseeing gambling reform have mentioned this with stake limits one major concern.

The UK Government did take action against the machines seen in High Street bookmakers with maximum stakes slashed to £2. That was a popular move with campaigners and those who had swiftly lost huge amounts on such machines. It wasn’t so popular with the gambling industry and the move led to redundancies and shops closing.

Now it looks inevitable that similar actions will be taken against online casinos. It’s very easy to lose hundreds of pounds very quickly on slots and other gaming machines seen on such sites. Reports have indicated that maximum stakes will be greatly reduced and down to £2 for those aged under 25. If this or something similar is introduced, it would have an effect on the profits of major online casinos as per report done by CasinoGambler.

While the UK Government lags behind with its gambling reforms, the industry itself continually mentions how they have introduced several tools that can help gamblers. Opponents will mention the millions of pounds that have had to be paid to the UK Gambling Commission in regulatory settlements after being found to have breached social responsibility rules.

Stricter affordability checks are another possible measure that might be introduced. This wouldn’t be a popular move with everyone, especially those who feel they do not have a gambling problem. Being asked to supply bank statements may result in them leaving the regulated industry and heading in the unsafe direction of the unregulated sites.

The contents of the White Paper will be revealed sooner or later. It is inevitable that the measures it includes will not be happy reading either for gambling companies or campaigners who are calling for strict regulation.

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