British Government Unveils Gambling White Paper Recommendations

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British Government Unveils Gambling White Paper Recommendations
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The government of the United Kingdom has published its long-awaited white paper of draft policy proposals as part of its program to significantly overhaul the nation’s existing online gambling laws in order to create a safer and more responsible environment.

Unveiled on Thursday by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Fraser, the recommendations, which are to be put out to consultation, mark the largest planned shake-up of the sector since the passage of the Gambling Act of 2005 when most of the industry’s revenues were derived from physical locations such as casinos, racetracks and betting shops.

Read Our Guide To Responsible Gambling

Current Concerns

However, British gambling firms now bank approximately two-thirds of their earnings from mobile and online activities with Fraser describing the country’s current regulations as insufficient because they have engendered an environment where addiction has ‘wrecked lives’ and led to ‘shattered families, lost jobs, foreclosed homes, jail time and suicide’.

“These are all the most extreme scenarios but it is important we acknowledge that for some families those worst fears for their loved ones have materialised,” Fraser said.

“Gambling problems in adults have always been measured in terms of money lost, but you cannot put a cost on the loss of dignity, the loss of identity and, in some cases, the loss of life that it can cause. 

“We need a new approach that recognizes a flutter is one thing, unchecked addiction is another. So, today we are bringing our pre-smartphone regulations into the present day with a gambling white paper for the digital age.”

The British government uses white paper policy documents to lay out its suggestions for future legislation while the publication of these proposed changes have been delayed at least four times since the foundational review was initiated by then-Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden in December of 2020.

Slot Scenario

One of the main white paper proposals from the government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could see stake limits of between £2 and £15 per spin brought in for online slots.

However, some of the country’s most prominent operators including Flutter, which is responsible for the Paddy Power, SkyBet and Betfair brands, already introduced a maximum £10 threshold in September of 2021.

This envisaged cap could moreover be lowered even further for online punters aged between 18 and 24, who Fraser described as a ‘particularly vulnerable cohort’, or subject such aficionados to bespoke limits based on individual risk.

Frazer asserted that the government intends to do more to ‘protect children’ by making sure they cannot access any form of gambling ‘either online or on widely accessible scratch cards’.

The white paper also proposes to bring in mandatory affordability checks for anyone who loses £1,000 in 24 hours or £2,000 over the course of 90 days.

Additional Assistance

The white paper proposals include another provision that would require domestically-licensed gambling firms to contribute an as yet unspecified amount of their revenues towards a levy for the funding of addiction research and treatment programs.

It remains unclear as to how this funding is to be managed, although Fraser proclaimed that such a scheme would be essential in helping to reduce a rise in gambling addictions brought on by the ubiquitousness of technology that has placed ‘Las Vegas on every phone’.

Although the white paper recommendations do not run to any new restrictions on advertising, they do embrace the potential launch of new government-run safer gambling campaigns alongside a consultation on how to slow the speed of online slots based on features such as quick games.

Alignment Aim

While the white paper proposals could see the regulation of online gambling tightened, physical casinos may well benefit from having some of their rules relaxed as part of an effort to level the playing field.

Fraser revealed that the suggestions could see the government soon allow gaming machines within land-based casinos to accept debit cards while also permitting smaller gambling venues to quadruple the number of their machines up to as high as 80 units.

Inertia Appraisal

While numerous online operators including Kindred Group and Entain have welcomed the new white paper ideas, Louise Davies from the Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) problem gambling charity criticised the government over its intention to put these proposals out for further consultation.

“After years of disappointment relating to this white paper, it is galling to learn of more dither and delay from the government,” Davies told the BBC.

“The abuses of the gambling industry and the scale of gambling-related harms in Britain are crystal clear and there is no need for further consultation on measures that are broadly supported such as a statutory levy and affordability checks. We need legislation.”

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