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British Government publishes review of gambling legislation

27th April 2023 1:53 pm GMT
Pragmatic Solutions

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has released its long-awaited review of gambling legislation in Great Britain.

The key findings of the review have been well publicised prior to today’s publication and contain few surprises.

Operators licenced to provide online gambling to consumers in Britain will be required to pay a mandatory levy in future to fund problem gambling treatment services and research. 

They will also have to conduct background checks to understand if a customer’s gambling is likely to be unaffordable and harmful. This measure will be subject to consultation and includes two forms of financial risk check. The first would apply to moderate levels of spend at a net loss of £125 within a month or £500 within a year and would involve checks for vulnerability indicators such as County Court Judgments.

The second form of financial check would apply to levels of spend which may indicate harmful binge gambling or sustained unaffordable losses, with proposed thresholds of £1,000 net loss within 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days. These enhanced thresholds would be halved for players aged 18-24.

It is estimated that around 3 per cent of online gaming accounts will be subject to the enhanced checks.

Another consultation will look into stake limits for online slots that will be between £2 and £15 per spin, falling to £2 or £4 per spin for adults under the age of 25. At the same time, the Gambling Commission will review and consult on updating design rules for online products relating to features like speed of play, illusion of player control and other intensifying features which can exacerbate risk.

It will also review the design and targeting of incentives such as free bets and bonuses to ensure there are clear rules and fair limits on re-wagering requirements and time limits.

Other proposals include increased powers for the Gambling Commission to combat illegal operators, as well as the creation of an independent ombudsman to adjudicate consumer complaints relating to social responsibility or gambling harm.

While rules for online gambling will be tightened, land-based casinos will benefit from an increase in the number of slot machines per premises and the ability to offer sports betting. Bingo halls may get the option to offer side bets and the Commission will consult on introducing cashless payments on gaming machines.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “We live in an age where people have a virtual mobile casino in their pockets. It has made gambling easier, quicker and often more fun, but when things go wrong it can see people lose thousands of pounds in a few swipes of the screen.

“So we are stepping in to update the law for those most at risk of harm with a new levy on gambling operators to pay for treatment and education, player protection checks and new online slots stake limits.

“This will strengthen the safety net and help deliver our long-term plan to help build stronger communities while allowing millions of people to continue to play safely.”

The key proposals of the review are expected to lead to a 3- 8 per cent reduction in gross gambling yield (GGY) across the industry, with the main decrease being in online gambling. Online gambling operators can expect a fall in GGY of between 8 and 14 per cent.

“The review is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver positive change for gambling in Great Britain and for all people impacted by it. Everyone at the Commission welcomes today’s publication of the White Paper and is determined to work with Government and partners to make these changes a reality,” said Andrew Rhodes, chief executive of the Gambling Commission.

“Given the correct powers and resources, the Gambling Commission can continue to make gambling safer, fairer and crime free. This White Paper is a coherent package of proposals which we believe can significantly support and protect consumers, and improve overall standards in the industry.

“As the detailed implementation of the review now begins, we will also be reiterating to all operators that the Commission will strongly maintain its focus on consumer protection and compliance.”

Estimates suggest that there are approximately 300,000 problem gamblers in the UK.

Today’s White Paper and proposals follow a call for evidence and are based on nearly 16,000 written submissions sent to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) during the process.

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