Bacta to make land-based gaming case to Parliament

Government backs White Paper consultation phase against pending pressures 

The UK government has published its response to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons observing sessions and consultations related to the Gambling Review. 

Chaired by Dame Caroline Dinenage (MP), in December, the Committee published its ‘second report of sessions 2023-to-2024’ related to implementing changes and proposals outlined by the Gambling Review’s White Paper.

The remit saw the Committee underline the 17 overarching policy proposals of the White Paper to include “new protections for online gambling consumers; the creation of a statutory gambling levy to raise money for problem gambling research, prevention and treatment; the relaxation of certain restrictions of land-based gambling premises, as well as new powers for local authorities which licence them; and the creation of a non-statutory gambling ombudsman to adjudicate disputes between gambling companies and the customers relating to social responsibility failings.” 

Further proposals include strengthening the Gambling Commission with new powers to tackle unlicensed online gambling, and a review of how the Commission’s fees are set and applied.

Observing the White Paper’s proceedings, the Committee detailed recommendations that “the government must set out a detailed timetable for the delivery of the White Paper’s proposals, including when relevant primary legislation will be introduced to Parliament.” 

The need for a timetable was detailed as the Committee expressed concern of “no mention of gambling legislation made in the King’s Speech” for changes in legislation proposed by “summer next year”.

Though “speed is a necessity”, the government must ensure that the Gambling Commission has undertaken thorough consultations of the White Paper proposals featuring input from diverse stakeholders.

Upcoming procedures see the Committee welcome the review of the Gambling Commission’s fees and proposals to give “the Commission the power to adjust its own fees annually.”

The response to the Committee’s call for a ‘detailed timetable’ was met with the acknowledgment of the challenges posed by wider political circumstances such as a General Election in 2024. 

However, the government expressed its commitment to proceeding with the consultations on the White Paper swiftly and has highlighted the ongoing work to implement the proposed measures.  

Work to date includes the three public consultations on key proposals from the White Paper related to new land-based gambling measures , the design of the Statutory Levy for safer gambling, and new stake limits for online slots. 

The urgency of reforms is underscored by the government’s acknowledgment of the need to protect consumers from the potential harms of gambling while ensuring that the freedom to enjoy gambling as a recreational activity is maintained. 

As noted by the response: “The balancing act between protecting the public and allowing for the gambling industry’s growth and contribution to the economy is a nuanced challenge that requires careful consideration and continuous oversight.” 

As pointed out by the Committee, a critical area of concern is the targeting of self-excluded individuals by unlicensed operators. The government’s response indicates implementing proactive measures, with plans to empower the Gambling Commission through new legislation that would enable more effective action against illegal operators targeting UK consumers. 

Progress on  the consultation of the Gambling Commission’s fees will ensure the regulator’s sustainability and adaptability in a rapidly evolving gambling landscape, aligned with a deeper complexity  in both online and land-based gambling.

The White Paper’s ongoing agenda requires a consultation to establish a non-statutory gambling ombudsman to provide  a channel for the adjudication of disputes between gambling companies and their customers, particularly relating to social responsibility failings.

The need for an Ombudsman is indicative of a broader shift toward increased consumer protection and an emphasis on social responsibility within the industry.

The government maintains that the ongoing procedures of the White Paper consultations will demonstrate  its pragmatic approach to reforming the gambling sector in a comprehensive manner supporting the Review’s overarching policy proposals 

As further consultations unfold and legislation takes shape, it will be essential to continue engaging a broad range of stakeholders to ensure that the reforms are effective, equitable, and conducive to an improved gambling sector. 

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