When the Conservative Party manifesto committed to conducting a review of the Gambling Act 2005, few would have anticipated that the speed with which this review, and focus on the sector, would become the focus of so much attention on both the front and back pages of the media.
Whilst the mantra of the Party in the run up to, and in the immediate aftermath of the election victory, was “to get Brexit done”, a number of significant announcements have put the industry under the microscope again:
Earlier this week, the APPG on Gambling Related Harm set out their work programme for the year, with Caroline Harris MP being re-elected as Chair of the Group.
The Group welcomed the introduction of a ban on gambling with credit cards, one of the recommendations made in the interim report on online gambling that was published in November 2019.
The APPG intend to complete their current inquiry in to online gambling, with the final report being published in “the coming months”. The inquiry will seek contributions from the Gambling Commission and the Gambling minister prior to publishing the final report.
The Group’s other focus for the year will be to “ensure that the remaining recommendations set out in (the interim) report (are) also actively taken forward including restrictions on the staking levels online, on gambling advertising and the statutory ‘smart’ levy to fund research, education and treatment.”
With Nigel Adams MP responding to a comment in Parliament that “the gambling industry has to be brought in to line with a completely new Gambling Act” he said that “(the Government) are going to review the Gambling Act – and the sooner we do so the better as far as I am concerned…a review of the Gambling Act is not only needed, but urgently needed…nothing is off the table in the review” the APPG has already indicated that it will make a full contribution, with evidence sessions looking at all aspects of harm in the industry including at areas such as the age level for purchasing scratch-cards, the normalisation of gambling, gambling advertising and the ‘gamblification’ of sport.
Whilst some criticism was made of the industry in the interim report of the APPG, who are an informal group of members of both houses with a common interest in gambling, their influence cannot be underestimated, as it is this body that led the call for the cut in stakes on FOBTs that was introduced last year.
The focus of attention on the sector shows no sign of waning in the near future with clear statements of intent coming from both the national regulator and parliament. The industry is now well placed to speak with one voice, in the creation of the Betting and Gaming Council, and when we hear the Chairman, Brigid Simmonds, say that “the industry needs to step up…we need to make sure…the people who want to bet and gamble (don’t) go off to unregulated sites where they don’t have the protections that they have in the UK”, it very much echoes the sentiments expressed in the Conservative party manifesto that they promise to ”legislate to make the UK the safest place in the word to be online.”
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