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Mike Johnson December 4, 2020 4 min read
Gambling Review in the UK Starts on Monday, December 7
The United Kingdom will begin its Gambling Act review on Monday, December 7 in what is the broadest regulatory move the gambling industry on the island has seen since 2005.
Gambling Act Review Begins on Monday
The long-anticipated review of the Gambling Act will launch this coming week and it will put up several important topics for debate. One of the key topics is whether authorities will allow sponsorships between sports clubs and betting firms, a debatable topic that could make consumer sense but imperils the survival and integrity of the sport, argue others.
Overhauling gambling laws on such scale will be the first time the government has looked into the industry on a fundamental level since 2005 when the Gambling Act was originally passed. On Monday, December 7, the government will begin a call for evidence exploring various aspects, including better consumer protection, controls and more.
What Will MPs Talk About?
The topic of player protection is just one of many to come up, including offshore markets, new products, empowering consumers to seek legal solutions should they be wronged by gambling firms, a mandatory levy to help develop gambling treatment initiatives, more comprehensive affordability checks, and a look at whether online betting limits should be limited in a fashion similar to FOBTs.
While the government is yet to announce its full program for the Gambling Act review, many expect the focus to be on online gambling and the re-regulation of interactive gambling. Calls for stricter regulations have been heard for months now, and this is likely to continue.
Some have welcomed measures such as the whistle-to-whistle ban that restricts the display of gambling ads during sports broadcast, but critics have argued that the measure is hardly enough, and a broader solution should be sought, as most brands are simply shifting their focus online.
Slashing Online Betting Limits to £2
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which will be carrying out the review, will focus on every aspect of the experience and broach the topic of adjusting maximum stakes for online gaming to £2, a proposal that many companies see as ‘an end’ for the gambling industry in the United Kingdom.
Another issue is stricter affordability checks, something that has been long discussed and something that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), the country’s regulator, has demonstrated willingness and ability to act on.
One of the proposed solutions is to create a centralized system, similar to how GamStop allows players to exclude themselves from all websites in the United Kingdom, rather than just individual brands.
In the case of a centralized system, operators will share the burden of reviewing customers and affordability, making for a more efficient overall consumer protection program.
Meanwhile, changes to the affordability and reviewing process have already been introduced, and the time to verify a customer’s identity has dropped to 48 hours.
Watch Out Not to Alienate Consumers
Most of the points put forth by the government seem logical, but the industry has said that lawmakers should not blindly overburden gambling firms. The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has repeatedly said that introducing harsher restrictions would not only destroy jobs, but it would similarly chase away many consumers who will turn to the offshore gaming and betting market.
Commenting about the upcoming review, the BGC had this to add: “It is important that the review is evidence-led and strikes the right balance between protecting the vulnerable, while not spoiling the enjoyment of the estimated 30 million people who enjoy a bet at least once a month – the vast majority of whom do so perfectly safely – and driving them into the arms of the unregulated online black market.”
The BGC has been actively advocating against the forceful shutting down of casinos and betting shops, arguing that they are some of the safest places in the United Kingdom. An article in The Guardian previously argued that bettors in the United Kingdom had saved £700 million thanks to the FOBTs restrictions in the period between April 2019 and March 2020.
The article went to dismiss the claim that thousands of jobs have been lost as a result of the FOBTs regulation. However, the BGC argued that the actual impact has been much steeper and the data published by the UKGC was provisional, and therefore not full.