Real life stories

International Recap - United Kingdom

30 September 2022
This is one of a series of articles recapping some international issues on gambling harm.
Article image

What’s going on?

On 8 December 2020, the then UK Culture Secretary launched a major and wide-ranging review of gambling, led by Ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, with engagement from across government, the Gambling Commission, the industry, health and charitable sector, those with lived experience of gambling harm, and other stakeholders.

Why is this important?

From “Keir Starmer’s gambling problem” in June 2022:

“When Tony Blair’s government liberalised gambling, smartphones were still the stuff of science fiction. Sir Alan Budd, who wrote the 2001 review that the 2005 Gambling Act was based on, recently conceded in a House of Lords inquiry that “no one had even thought about the possibility that someone might be holding something in his or her hand and be allowed to gamble freely”. The legislation, then, rapidly proved obsolete: nowadays smartphones facilitate the majority of gambling that happens in the UK.”

So what’s covered in the proposed review/reform?

It has been hard to ascertain as the white paper has not been released, but there has been no shortage of efforts from people on multiple sides of the issue to lobby the Government:

Some of Britain’s betting giants are revealed to have quietly lobbied Treasury officials against a proposed industry crackdown

From the Daily Mail in May 2022: “Plans to be published next month had been expected to introduce a ‘polluter pays’ levy on gambling firms to fund research into addiction. They were also expected to propose a ban on the names of gambling sponsors appearing on the front of Premier League football shirts.”

Meanwhile, industry commentators Earnings + More claimed to have received leaked details of Britain’s proposed changes at the time:

·Stake limits for online casino in line with land-based offerings;

·Affordability checks for punters;

·Further regulation on promotions and some restrictions on so called “free bets”;

·The Gambling Commission to set its own fees, with fees almost certain to rise. The regulator will also get the power to require bulk data from online operators and a levy for research, prevention and treatment (RET) funding, paid directly to the Commission.

One thing that is definitely not part of the reforms: Loot boxes in video games will not be banned in the UK, despite a government consultation finding evidence of a “consistent” association between the features and problem gambling.

How’s this review all going?

In short, not well. In July 2022, the reforms were paused again due to the turmoil within the Conservative Party:

“Advisers to Boris Johnson concluded that a white paper, which was scheduled to go ahead next week, could not be published until a new leader of the Conservative party was elected to replace him as prime minister.

The latest of a series of delays comes amid a tussle between different Tory party factions over the content of the plans, multiple Whitehall sources said.”

Since then, the new prime minister Liz Truss is said to favour ditching plans for new regulation in a range of areas in order to focus on economic growth.

Why does this matter in New Zealand?

Any major change to rules for gambling in the United Kingdom will be monitored by policymakers in New Zealand, as gambling regulators from around the world watch what other jurisdictions are doing to reduce the harm from gambling.