UK gambling regulations under the microscope after APPG report

UK Gambling Firms Could Face All-Out Advertising Ban, £2 Stake Limit

British gambling regulation is “not fit for purpose” and needs a complete overhaul, according to a group of MPs.

The 50-member Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) today published the results of its year-long report into online gambling.

The scathing report makes more than 30 recommendations to overhaul gambling in the UK, including:

  • A £2 stake limit on online slots
  • A ban on all VIP schemes and inducements
  • A ban on all gambling advertising
  • Affordability limits set and imposed by the UK Gambling Commission
  • A Gambling Ombudsman for consumer redress

Major changes coming to UK gambling policy?

While the suggestions are just that for now, the group has previously campaigned successfully for a ban on credit card betting and restrictions on fixed-odds betting terminals.

APPG chair Carolyn Harris said the gambling industry had shown “time and again” it would not effectively self-regulate.

“This multi-million pound industry has destroyed people’s lives,” Harris said in a press release accompanying the report.

“They resist change at every turn and claim to be reforming themselves but put forward limited changes. Their primary motive is profit. During the Covid pandemic they said they would end TV and radio advertising but just ended up replacing ads with ads – that none of us want to see.”

The UK government is currently preparing a review of the core gambling legislation and could realistically take up some of the group’s proposals.

UK gambling operators push back

Perhaps not coincidentally, GVC CEO Kenny Alexander yesterday published an op-ed warning that further restrictions on licensed operators could push bettors to the black market.

Addressing online stake limits specifically, he said they would hurt the people they were most intended to protect.

“Punters would switch instead to unlicensed black market operators,” Alexander said, “where there is zero customer protection, interaction or intervention for those who may be at risk.”

He elaborated:

“The proportion of UK customers betting with illegal gambling operations is currently amongst the lowest in the world, but the black market in this country still generates £1.4 billion of turnover a year.

“We only need to look at other countries that have imposed onerous regulations, such as France and Australia, to see that they lead to the rise of substantial black markets. And problem gambling has been found to be up to 150% more prevalent among illegal operators.”

Industry has made “significant strides”

The UK Gambling Commission also pushed back on the recommendations, saying it was “committed to drastically reducing gambling harm.”

Meanwhile the Betting and Gaming Council, which represents the UK’s largest online operators, defended the improvements the industry has made in recent years.

“Both the regulator and the government have both made it clear that there is in fact no evidence that problem gambling has increased,” a BGC spokesperson said.

The trade group said its members have made significant strides since its formation last year, including self-imposed advertising restrictions and “massively increasing” funding for problem gambling research and treatment.

Read the full BGC statement here.

- Brad has been covering the online gambling industry in Europe and the US for more than four years, most recently as the news editor at EGR Global.
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