A comprehensive overhaul of the gambling laws to be launched next week will consider banning sports sponsorship and restricting online casinos stakes on a “reformers shopping list” of proposals to overhaul gambling laws, the Guardian may reveal.
The long-awaited revision, which could reverse huge chunks of the 2005 Gambling Act 2005, will begin Monday with an initial call for evidence.
At the same time, a frame of reference is being published, providing for the first time insight into what lies ahead for the gambling industry and campaigners advocating for stricter regulations.
Amid growing concerns about the role of gambling in wider society, the changes envisaged will include:
Restrictions on Online Betting.
Difficult affordability checks.
A testing regime for new products.
A ban on sports sponsorship.
New powers to tackle the parallel market.
Its broad scope is likely to be welcomed by advocates of tougher regulation, including those recovering from gambling addiction and more than 50 MPs and colleagues who have faced tighter controls. But the prospect of a much rougher regulatory environment will be of concern for online casino bosses and bookmakers.
Multiple sources said officials from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) leading the trial would target almost every area of the gambling law, in what one insider called a “reformer’s shopping list.”
An important point of attention is the regulation of online casinos and electronic slot machines. Gamblers can bet unlimited amounts online, even though some internet-based games such as roulette are no different from the games available at fixed odds gambling terminals, the maximum bet of which has been reduced from £ 100 to £ 2.
In addition to the maximum bet, ministers will consider whether companies should be forced to limit players’ monthly losses and implement much stricter affordability checks to ensure that people gamble within their means.
It follows a series of high-profile incidents that left problem gamblers penniless after losing large sums of money. In one case, an online gambling company accepted a “VIP” gambler’s payout as proof that he could afford to keep gambling. In another case, high street bookies were accused of knowingly allowing a problem user to gamble compensation for an injury that left him severely disabled.
According to proposals to be weighed by the DMCS, new gambling products could also be subject to a rigorous testing regime that would determine whether they are released to the market and how much can be wagered on.
The UK gambling industry lobby group, the Betting & Gaming Council, has repeatedly said that tightening regulations too far could encourage parallel market betting that pays little attention to customer safety. But the DCMS will consider giving the regulator, the Gambling Commission, which has admitted that it is underfunded, additional funding and new powers to tackle illegal operators.
Sources said the review would also address marketing and advertising, including the possibility of new measures to curb sports sponsorship – including logos on football club shirts – as an apparent response to football’s “gambling addiction”.
Promotional offers are also expected to be part of the scope of the review, indicating that the government is not satisfied with a concerted effort by the industry and the Gambling Commission to address concerns about VIP schemes, bonuses and so-called “free bets” .
VIP schemes, where gamblers who lose large amounts of money are won, eaten, and given financial incentives to keep gambling, are a common feature of high-profile stories of problem gamblers resorting to crime or suicide.
The DCMS is not expected to address the much-criticized lack of funding for the treatment of gambling addiction, indicating that it will be left to the Department of Health and Social Care to address concerns about the availability of assistance for people with gambling disorder to take.
The revision is likely overseen by the Secretary of Sport, Nigel Huddleston, but Boris Johnson would like to get back to the Blair-era legislation that gave rise to the modern British gambling industry.
Senior officials on Downing Street are also believed to see gambling reform as a winner of the votes, as well as the right thing to do. “The prime minister just sees it as people being exploited and he isn’t,” said a member of parliament with knowledge of No. 10 thinking earlier this year.