On 16 June 2020, the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group published their final report following their year-long inquiry into online gambling harm.
Whilst the Group rejects any suggestion that it is anti-gambling or prohibitionist, and asserts that any such suggestion is to debase what is an important discussion to protect vulnerable people and children and prevent online gambling harm, the Group is comprised of many influential Members of Parliament, who have been vocal in their condemnation of the gambling sector and spearheaded previous anti-gambling campaigns.
As such, the report lacks the balance expected of an independent review or Select Committee report, and may be seen by some as an attack on the industry.
Though the comments made in the press release and the report make for uncomfortable reading due to the tone, lack of specificity and (in some cases) lack of acknowledgment of pre-existing regulatory requirements, we recommend that senior management review and consider it in full. The report outlines 30+ recommendations, with some of the key recommendations being:
- Stake limits for online slot content of no higher than £2 and clear deposit limits.
- An urgent review of stakes, deposit and prize limits online as well as a complete review and classification of online products in terms of addictiveness and safety.
- Restrictions on in-play sports betting.
- Significant reductions in the speed of random number generators and prohibitions on free spins, turbo spins or reel stop play.
- Affordability limits set and imposed by the Gambling Commission based on a clear understanding of what is affordable to online users taking into account the gambler's income, outgoings and circumstances.
- An extension of the credit card ban to prohibit gambling on credit of any kind, including loans and overdrafts.
- A ban on all gambling advertising, marketing and inducements, including ending all gambling advertising in online games such as FIFA.
- A ban on all VIP schemes and inducements.
- A mandatory ‘smart’ levy paid by gambling operators to fund independent research, education, prevention and treatment where those companies and sectors of the market causing the greatest harm should pay the most.
- The establishment of a Gambling Ombudsman to inform consumers how to resolve disputes.
- A complete overhaul of gambling regulation in the UK, in relation to which the Group asserts that the Gambling Commission is not fit for purpose and recommends an urgent review of the Gambling Commission and its capacity to effectively regulate the online gambling industry. The Group also calls for spread betting to fall under the auspices of the Gambling Commission, the implementation of ISP and financial transaction blocking to unlicensed operators and the cessation of trading by Gambling Commission licensees in any jurisdictions that have not formally legalised remote gambling.
- A new Gambling Act, in relation to which the Group calls for Government to consider what changes can be made in the short-term through secondary legislation, pending an overhaul of the 2005 Gambling Act to ensure that it is "fit for our digital age". The Group also recommends the enactment of legislation to equip the Gambling Commission with "adequate enforcement powers" (although there is no detail as to what additional enforcement powers the Gambling Commission should have) and the imposition of a duty of care between customers and operators.
The extent to which any of the Group's recommendations are implemented remains to be seen, and we will be tracking developments (including any advances in the review of the Gambling Act) closely. In the meantime, If there are any aspects of the report that you would like to discuss with us, please reach out to your usual contact within the Betting & Gaming team.
You can find the press release here.