After a year of delays, the UK gambling white paper was published last week, presenting a cautious response to the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act. Rather than definitive decisions, many issues have been slated for further consultation, resulting in mixed reactions among stakeholders.
While the largest gambling operators have largely welcomed the proposals, those working in gambling research, education, and treatment have expressed mixed reactions. Some welcomed the confirmation of a proposal for a mandatory levy on gambling operators to fund their work, but also raised concerns about its implementation, which will be subject to future consultation.
EPIC Risk Management expressed “cautious optimism” about the UK gambling white paper but raised questions about how funding will be allocated. CEO Paul Buck stated that the consultation must clarify who will independently commission the funds and ensure they are directed to the most effective organizations that can make the most impact. Effective commissioning of funding will be crucial and require step-change progress.
Buck also noted that while treatment and research are crucial, prevention should also be front and center in the conversation. He believes it is a false economy to encourage harm by not prioritizing prevention.
Despite the need for further discussions, Buck welcomed the release of the white paper, stating that it informs where the UK is heading to create a safer gambling industry.
“We welcome sensible legislation aimed at preventing gambling-related harm, but we acknowledge that there is still much work to be done to iron out the details on key areas,” stated an industry spokesperson in response to the UK government’s gambling white paper, which was published after a year of delays.
GAMSTOP, the UK’s primary self-exclusion program, praised the announcement of new powers to tackle unlicensed gambling. The CEO of GAMSTOP, Fiona Palmer, expressed concern about the targeting of vulnerable individuals by illegal sites not registered with GAMSTOP and welcomed the introduction of measures to disrupt the business of illegal gambling operators.
GamCare, which operates the UK’s National Gambling Helpline, welcomed the proposals for a mandatory levy and the introduction of affordability checks. The CEO of GamCare, Anna Hemmings, stated that the proposed measures were an important recognition of the changes needed to make sure that gambling legislation is fit for the digital age. Hemmings also welcomed the clarity provided by the government regarding the funding of research, education, and treatment.
Gambling complaints handling body
The proposal for a new gambling ombudsman to handle player complaints has garnered support. Although voluntary at first, the government may intervene if there is poor take-up. Hemmings believes that creating an ombudsman would ensure “fair, transparent, and quick resolution of complaints.” GamCare service users should be involved in the design of the new system, she said.
IBAS also hopes to be involved. The organization said that the government’s support for a single complaints handling body is a welcome move. IBAS has 25 years of experience in reviewing consumer complaints and providing advice to businesses and regulators. They have developed plans for how their service could be transformed into an ombudsman within 12 months. They look forward to working with stakeholders to set out their vision for a gambling ombudsman that can provide fast, efficient, and knowledgeable dispute resolution on a wider range of complaint issues than those covered by existing ADR standards.