A white paper has been the hot topic of discussion in the UK, with some proposed changes in the 2005 Gambling Act not sitting well with Tory backbenchers and others. Lobbying efforts to get the opposite message across have been undertaken by gambling companies.
Gambling Act – 17 Years Old, Needs Update
The Gambling Act is from 2005 and a review into was launched in late 2020 with the idea of helping “children and vulnerable people” place their bets “safely”. A white paper with the results was supposed to be published in late 2021, however, it’s still “stuck in government”, as Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader. Apparently, this is due to strong pushback on further gambling regulation, both from party members, as well as the Treasury.
Sir Iain focuses on the harms of gambling and had a lot to say about the “completely unregulated” industry. He was reported by Sky News as saying “Gambling can lead to fraud, debts, family break-up and eventually suicide,” urging the creation of a “predictable source of money” that can be used to help and treat those affected.
There are some changes to the Gambling Act, however, that might make funding such programs that help with problem gambling and gambling addicts and their families “voluntary”. There is a possibility that a statutory levy on gaming operators that uses the money to pay for gambling addiction research and treatments might be left out entirely. Sir Iain didn’t agree with this possibility, saying it would “emasculate” the white paper. “This levy is peanuts. And it is about something that is doing harm,” added Sir Iain.
The Times has reported that instead of the statutory levy, an agreement has been reached between the industry and the government. According to the proposed agreement, paying for treatment would become voluntary, and there will be a “significant uplift” in pledged funds. The Betting and Gaming Council has reportedly said some of its largest members have already done their part, by pledging an additional £100 million (approximately $121 million) through GambleAware.
However, a lot of pushback is expected to the voluntary mechanism. The Social Market Foundation think tank has already spoken out about it, saying it “lacks consistency, transparency, and accountability.” Sir Iain has also warned that the government will be “surprised how much concern there will be on the back benches about this,” predicting that “emasculating” the white paper will be “a very wrong move” that will see “a lot of opposition.”
UK Problem Gamblers Need Help
Sir Iain urged for stronger action and more regulation, pleading that gambling addiction is “a serious problem” with “many people suffering damaged lives, families, individuals, and we need to deal with this urgently.” There is a countering lobby operation started by the gambling operators, but the problems in the UK are clear.
The end of June saw a woman faking cancer and scamming people for around £45,000 (approximately $55,000) to fuel her gambling “hobby.” Her deception was later exposed by a doctor, who happened to stumble over her lies online. She was named Nicole Elkabbas, and many other people like living in the UK. A recently published research by the UK Gambling Commission, dubbed “Path to play” is focusing expressly on the betting habits of gamblers. There were many groups of people identified as more susceptible to complications in their lives, and it comes as no surprise that problem gamblers are the most likely to have their behavior changed in a negative way, as they are more exposed to passive influence and active external triggers. Published estimates in September found that approximately 409 suicides a year are “associated with” problem gamblers in the UK, with a total of “212,511 people with depression and problem or at-risk gambling”.
These are exactly the people that will be most affected by the changes to the Gambling Act and unfortunately, there are no guarantees if the white paper will be published any time soon. The Mirror reported that it is “due for release in the coming weeks”.