In 2020, the UK government initiated an examination of the gambling laws. After two and a half years of waiting, the UK’s much-delayed white paper on gambling will finally be published.
The much-anticipated gambling white paper, which will outline proposed updates to the 2005 Gambling Act, is finally expected to be published by the UK government today (April 26). Since the legislative review began in 2020, the contents of the paper have been heavily debated and speculated upon.
During this time, the responsibility for the gambling white paper has been passed through six individuals. Nigel Huddleston initiated the review before John Whittingdale and Chris Philp took on the gambling brief. Philp had indicated that the paper was about to be published before he resigned in protest at Boris Johnson’s leadership in July of last year.
Damian Collins succeeded Philp but was replaced by Paul Scully after Rishi Sunak became the leader. Meanwhile, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) has been led by four individuals: Oliver Dowden, Nadine Dorries, Michelle Donelan, and currently, Lucy Frazer.
Leaked information reported in The Times suggests that the implications for the gambling sector from the upcoming white paper will not be as severe as some had anticipated. The proposals are said to include:
- A £2 maximum stake on online slot games for players under 25 and £15 for other players. There is a possibility that this may be opened to consultation instead of being immediately enforced. Initially, a blanket £2 maximum stake for all online slots was expected, bringing them in line with Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). Some companies, such as Flutter, have already implemented a £10 limit.
- A new speed limit on online slots.
- Soft affordability checks. Although the mechanics are not yet clear, it has been suggested that frictionless credit checks will be applied when a player loses £1,000 in 24 hours or £2,000 over 90 days.
- A 1% industry levy on gambling revenue to fund research, prevention, and treatment for problem gambling. Many of the major bookmakers already make voluntary contributions at this level.
- A consultation regarding potential advertising restrictions. The Premier League has already implemented a voluntary ban on front-of-shirt gambling sponsorship to try and avoid demands for a complete ban.
- Enhanced powers for the Gambling Commission to deal with.
Response to the White Paper on Gambling
It should be noted that some of the proposals outlined in the white paper suggest the need for further discussions rather than concrete actions. This could be what Scully was alluding to when he emphasized that the white paper was just the beginning of the gambling reform process. Although the industry may appreciate the absence of significant restrictions on gambling advertising in the white paper itself, the commencement of additional consultations implies that it will take even longer to obtain clarity.
This approach has drawn criticism from both the opposition and gambling stakeholders. Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary for Labour, remarked, “The regulation of gambling has failed to keep up with the significant rise in online and smartphone gambling, with few checks and balances. Since the White Paper was initially promised, we’ve had ten different ministers in charge of gambling policy, resulting in dire consequences for those harmed by unscrupulous practices.”
Many parliamentarians agree that the current regulations governing traditional forms of gambling must be modernized to suit the digital era. However, due to the Conservatives’ inability to govern effectively, this objective remains distant.
According to Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council, “Despite the numerous alterations and ongoing postponements, we have collaborated closely with the government to develop a comprehensive set of reforms that build upon the significant advancements made by our members in recent years.”
Our goal from the outset was to implement reforms that were balanced, proportionate, and based on solid evidence. We aimed to establish measures that would better safeguard vulnerable individuals and minors, while utilizing technology to target the 0.2% of adult problem gamblers, all without compromising the enjoyment of the vast majority of individuals who gamble responsibly.
Our efforts have been particularly focused on securing genuinely seamless enhanced spending checks to further protect vulnerable individuals, creating a new ombudsman to enhance consumer redress, and modernizing the regulation of UK casinos, all of which we at the BGC have actively advocated for.
Furthermore, we have previously supported enhanced and mandatory funding for research, education, and treatment to address gambling-related harm, and we are prepared to implement a new mandatory levy and consult on new stake limits for online slots, particularly those that provide additional safeguards for minors.