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DCMS launches review of British gambling laws

8th December 2020 8:04 am GMT

The UK Government today launched its long-anticipated review of gambling laws, with the findings to be used to inform any changes to the Gambling Act 2005.

Alongside announcing the launch of the review, culture secretary Oliver Dowden also confirmed that the minimum age for buying lottery products will be raised from 16 to 18 from October 2021.

The review will examine online stake limits, advertising regulations, promotional offers and age limits, as well as the powers of the Gambling Commission and the options available to consumers to take action against operators who may have breached social responsibility requirements.

“Whilst millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analogue law in a digital age. From an era of having a flutter in a high street bookmaker, casino, racecourse or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed,” said Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

“This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely.

“This builds upon our clear track record of introducing tough measures to protect people from the risk of gambling harm - banning the use of credit cards, launching tighter age verification checks and cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals,” Dowden added.

With regard to the National Lottery, DCMS said that its changing portfolio of games and growing trend towards online play and instant win games like scratchcards meant that the minimum age should be raised from 16 to 18. This will be introduced following a consultation, with the government committing to raising the minimum age by October 2021, with online sales to under 18’s possible ending as early as April 2021.

“We’re committed to protecting young people from gambling related harm which is why we are raising the minimum age for the National Lottery,” said Nigel Huddleston, minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage.

“Patterns of play have changed since its inception, with a shift towards online games, and this change will help make sure the National Lottery, although already low-risk, is not a gateway to problem gambling.”

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which represents the majority of UK licensed gambling operators, welcomed the launch of the review and urged the government to focus on protecting problem gamblers.

“Problem gambling may be low at around 0.7 per cent and as the DCMS has said there is no evidence that it has increased in the last 20 years, but one problem gambler is one too many. So I hope Ministers will focus in with laser-like precision on problem gamblers and those at risk,” said BGC chief executive Michael Dugher.

“The Government must ensure that any changes do not drive people to the unregulated black market online, where there aren’t any safeguards to protect vulnerable people. Our members do not allow betting by under-18s, so we welcome in particular confirmation of the Government’s decision to ban 16 and 17-year-olds from playing the National Lottery. It’s got to be one rule for all.”

“The review must also take account of the huge economic contribution made by the betting and gaming industry, which employs over 100,000 people,” Dugher added. “This includes £8.7bn a year in Gross Value Added and over £3.2bn to HM Treasury in tax. In addition, horse racing receives over £350m per year through the horse racing industry levy, media rights and sponsorships, while betting companies spend over £40m a year on the English Football League and its clubs. Other sports, including rugby league, snooker and darts also receive millions of pounds in sponsorship from our members, while casinos contribute over £120m to the tourism economy each year.”

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