BGC pledges to maintain safer gambling momentum. Michael Dugher.

Michael Dugher: UK Gambling’s improved Youth protections showcase need for effective reforms

Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) Chief Executive Michael Dugher has cited concerns that the Gambling Review has lost “real oversight and a genuine strategic approach” with regards to implementing effective reforms. 

As February approaches, the deadline month for DCMS to publish the Gambling Review’s long-awaited White Paper of recommendations, Dugher questioned – “What exactly is the government trying to achieve with its gambling White Paper?”

The drawn-out deliberation on gambling reforms, ongoing for the past two and a half years, will be settled by either the government siding with achievable yet comprehensive checks supported by BGC members against overtly consumer intrusive and technically complex measures wanted by reformists.

Writing an op-ed in The Times, Dugher cited: “The anti-gambling lobby have their demands. They want the government to tell people how much they are allowed to spend on betting and for people to be forced to hand over confidential documents, such as payslips and bank statements, if they spend £100.”  

“They want a complete ban on all advertising and sports sponsorship. They want a new hypothecated tax on the industry — a statutory levy to fund RET.

Reformists demands come up against the BGC’s effective reforms outlined since the trade body’s inception in 2020, in which Dugher once against stated that members supported:-

“The creation of an ombudsman to improve consumer redress, there’s more to be done on advertising and sports sponsorship, we’d welcome enhanced funding for independent research, education and treatment (RET), and we desperately need to update antiquated restrictions holding back casinos.”

“For online gambling, building on best practice and changes we’ve already introduced, we want to see more financial checks on customers, but think these need to be carefully targeted to tackle problem gambling and to protect the vulnerable.”

Of significance, working with members the BGC has already implemented strategic reforms to UK gambling, most notably changing operators’ approach to interacting with young people.  

Dugher branded the voluntary whistle-to-whistle advertising ban on live football, as one of the most successful initiatives – which delivered “a 97 per cent drop in young people seeing such adverts. This is making a difference, at last year’s World Cup

The BGC has secured a wholesale change to safeguarding young people from gambling, not only reducing TV advertising exposure, but blocking advertising on social media to ensure that adverts are only seen by adults.

The industry’s new approach is further enhanced by the BGC members’ £10m investment in ‘Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme’, overseen by the charities YGAM and GamCare, which has engaged over 2 million children on safer gambling.

UK gambling should be praised for its commitment to the highest standards protecting the young, above those witnessed in other sectors such as retail, alcohol and tobacco.  

Should the government proceed to take the wrong direction on reforms, Dugher noted that all protections on young people, will be lost to a black market that actively targets the young and vulnerable.  

He concluded “This is a mature, popular, heavily-regulated and world-leading sector, contributing £4.2 billion in taxes and generating £7.1 billion for the economy, as well as ploughing many millions of pounds into sports this nation loves.”

“The white paper on gambling also provides an opportunity to really drive forward positive reforms that offer carefully balanced and strategic change for the future. Better protecting young people should be at the heart of that.”

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