Ban on VIPs to Be Imposed as Part of the Gambling Act Review

A media report in the UK claims the ongoing review of the Gambling Act is set to ban VIP schemes, considering current measures ineffective against the “immoral” practice.

End of VIP Schemes

Ministers in the UK are determined to deal away with the VIP schemes once and for all by outright banning the tactic deployed by gambling operators to groom players via one-to-one management programs which do nothing but exacerbate problem gambling issues, The Mail reported on Sunday.

According to an unnamed Government source, plans to impose a blanket ban on the VIP practice are widely approved by the Ministers and will be the basis of the industry reform expected after the ongoing review of the Gambling Act concludes later this year, when the Government will release a White Paper.

One of the campaigners of the measure, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, confirmed his position that a ban on VIP schemes was long overdue, calling the practice of grooming people to gamble more an “atrocious abuse, forcing people into debt” and causing desperation by offering troubled people incentives to deepen their problem behavior.

VIP schemes have been previously considered by the Gambling Commission, raising the requirements for operators prior to make a customer a VIP client, asking them to check since October whether their clients can afford to gamble the amounts they bet, but concerns about the effectiveness of the approach remained.

Gambling Commission Not Going Far Enough

Expecting the VIP schemes to be banned by the regulator, the softer approach by the Gambling Commission last year piled pressure on the gambling watchdog due to its “weak and vague regulation”.

Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (GRH APPG) Labour MP Carolyn Harris said by that time the Commission’s inability to impose a ban on the VIP practices indicated the existing “close relationship between the industry and the Gambling Commission”.

Some of the biggest UK gambling companies have a history of being slapped with multi-million pound fines for their practice to target vulnerable and addicted people using the grooming tactics, and despite the newly required sign-off by a senior for gamblers under 25, as well as additional monitoring of their gambling accounts, it is clear the Government is determined to use the review and complete the job started by the Commission.

A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) neither denied nor confirmed that the Government would be banning the VIP scheme.

“The consultation on the Gambling Act Review closed in March, and we are carefully considering responses that provided evidence and views including those on advertising practices.”

Spokesman, DCMS

The gambling industry representative body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), commented that the tough measures are undertaken by the regulator last year, including “the introduction of a strict new code of conduct” resulted in a decrease in the number of VIP accounts by 70%.

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