By Yvonne Greenwood | Expected reading time 5 min
The 2005 Gambling Act is being reviewed by the UK government with a decision on what needs to be done set for 31 March 2021.
Boris Johnson’s government outlined its plan to make a comprehensive review of gambling in the UK over a year ago and has now announced the terms for delivering the document.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has asked for a call for evidence regarding the effects of stake limits and universal deposit limits. The role of the UK Gambling Commission will also be looked at.
The review will also focus on advertising and gambling bonuses with suggestions that a complete ban on gambling advertisements could be on the table.
The findings of the review will then be added to the 2005 Gambling Act.
It is expected that certain changes will be made based on where technology has moved beyond the scope of the 2005 Act. This could include betting restrictions on online slot machines.
Former Liberal Democrat MP Lord Foster has been involved in debates around gambling for a long time now, he said:
“The first iPhone had not even been invented at the time of the 2005 Gambling Act, everyone has a smartphone and anyone can gamble 24/7 no matter where they are. The world has changed dramatically.”
QUESTIONS IN RELATION TO ONLINE GAMBLING
The call for evidence asks for 10 questions in relation to online gambling. These questions include:
- Existing protections for online gamblers.
- How revenue is distributed between high and low spending players.
- Controls on stakes, speed and prize limits for online games.
- Deposit, loss and spend limits on online accounts and whether these should exist universally or on an account-by-account basis.
- Whether a safer online gambling environment can be achieved.
- If current player protections such as player-set limits can be improved.
- Whether white label operators pose a risk to players.
- if a risk is caused by new and emerging technologies including cryptocurrency payment methods.
- How harmful promotions such as bonus offers are.
- The effectiveness of safer gambling messages within advertisements.
THE ROLE OF THE UK GAMBLING COMMISSION
The powers and the role of the UKGC will also come under specific review. The call for evidence will ask if the UKGC has “sufficient investigation, enforcement and sanctioning powers” in regards to bringing about change and improving industry standards.
The gambling black market will also be brought to attention with specific questions asking whether there is a risk of a significant black market emerging. It will also investigate how easy or difficult it is for players to access unlicensed gambling websites.
In addition, the review will determine the most effective system for recouping the regulatory and societal costs of gambling from operators.
POTENTIAL STAKE RESTRICTIONS ON SLOT MACHINES OPEN TO DEBATE
The review is expected to take a detailed look into introducing stake restrictions throughout all online gambling including potential restrictions on how much can be bet on a single spin of a slot machine.
If the changes come into force, it will affect how online slot websites and casinos can conduct their business.
In 2019, the maximum bet on fixed-odds betting terminals was reduced from £100 to £2 after heavy pressure from the government. Currently, UK gamblers are able to bet up to £500 on a single spin of an online slot machine.
The current span of the 2005 Act is not thought to take into consideration the growth of online casino gambling. In 2020, a gambler is just a few taps of their phone away from being able to bet a lot of money from his/her living room.
A DELICATE BALANCING ACT
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston is keen for the government to find a middle ground for increasing regulations in the UK gambling sector, he said:
“The review will seek to strike a careful balance between individual freedom and protecting the vulnerable.”
Ian Proctor, UK chairman of Flutter Entertainment which owns Paddy Power and SkyBet has gone on record and stated that the UK Gambling Act does need updating for the digital age, he said:
“We take [problem gambling] incredibly seriously… but let’s also get this in a little bit of context,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.
“For millions of people every week, they enjoy a bet, it’s a leisure activity, it gives people a lot of pleasure. For some people it’s not, for a small minority. And we need to make gambling safer for those people.”
UK gambling companies have been attempting to paint themselves in a brighter light over the past year. Many took part in Safe Gambling Week whilst Flutter Entertainment hired former MP Tom Watson as an advisor. Tom Watson is one of the most outspoken voices in regards to the dangers of online gambling.
Multimedia journalist Lewis Finney on his Gambling and Football podcast, states how, back in 2005, the government reviewed the Gambling Act with three main aims:
“To prevent gambling being a source of crime and disorder, to ensure that gambling is conducted fairly and openly and to protect children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling.”
Whether or not sweeping changes will be made to the Act come March 31 2021 remains to be seen.