UK’s Upcoming Gambling Reform Continues to Attract Controversy

The UK government will likely unveil its new gambling reforms within days. The changes are motivated by the explosive growth of online betting and the increased threat of gambling addiction. Recent rumors about some suggestions getting removed from the white paper caused an uproar among anti-gambling campaigners.

Gambling Regulations in the UK Are in Dire Need of Reform

The UK’s gambling regulation has remained generally unchanged for the past 17 years and is now outdated and ill-equipped to tackle a modern gambling landscape dominated by online operators. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) has spent the past two years devising updates to relevant laws to bring them in line with the present realities in the gambling landscape and help protect individuals vulnerable to addiction.

The proposed changes will cover land-based and online operators and require them to abide by additional guidelines. These include performing “non-intrusive” checks on clients to ensure that individuals do not suffer unsustainable losses. Further expected proposals include restrictions on promotional offers such as bonuses and free bets. Campaigners have called for a total ban on such practices, but a drastic move like this is unlikely to pass. 

Some proposed changes aim to help land-based establishments remain competitive with their online counterparts. Stakes for online casino games and slots will have set limits between £2 and £5 – the same as with physical machines. Street casinos will also be allowed to hold 80 gaming machines, up from 20.

The Government Got Accused of Watering Down Several Key Proposals

Several controversial proposals have been causing tensions since their initial announcement. The first is the plan to ban gambling operators from putting their logos on the shirts of Premier League football teams. At the end of March, twenty Twenty English Football League (EFL) and non-league soccer clubs signed a letter supporting a total sponsorship ban on moral grounds. This idea appears to have dropped, and the government is now negotiating with the clubs to have them voluntarily opt-out of gambling sponsorships. Officials stated that if they do not reach an agreement with clubs, legislative measures remain an option.

The other idea to reportedly not make it into the final version of the paper is a mandatory levy on operator profits. The extra funds would have funded initiatives related to the research and treatment of addiction. The potential exclusion of this measure from the white paper caused outcries of lobbyism and provoked an angry retort by officials who called campaigners “ small but noisy.” Operators will likely instead be encouraged to opt into such initiatives of their own volition. 

The UK government is walking a thin line with its upcoming policy changes. If they push too hard, consumers may turn to the black market and use dangerous unregulated operators. If the new measures are too lax, they will fail at achieving the main reason for their existence- protecting the millions of people who regularly engage in gambling from harm.

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