The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) finally released its triennial review of gaming machines stakes and prizes this morning, ushering a 12 week period of proposals and consultation on industry changes.
As part of the review, the Gambling minister Tracey Crouch underlined the importance of ‘striking the right balance between socially responsible growth and protecting the most vulnerable, including children, from gambling-related harm.’
Crouch said: “Given the strong evidence and public concerns about the risks of high-stakes gaming machines on the high street, we are convinced of the need for action. That is why today we have set out a package of proposals to ensure all consumers and wider communities are protected.”
However, in spite of the government pledging to decrease the maximum stake on the terminals from £100 to either £50/£30/£20 or £2, the review and the proposals that followed it, evoked a reaction that wasn’t completely positive.
Both the review and the consultation period were welcomed by the Gambling Commission, as it emphasised that this 12 week period “provides an important opportunity to consider the impact that gambling can have for some people.”
The Commission added: “We would encourage anyone with an interest in the regulation of gambling to ensure that their voices are heard through the consultation. Reducing the risks that people face from gambling, especially those that are vulnerable, is at the heart of our advice that we give to Government.”
On the other hand, The Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson, who recently unveiled Labour’s new policy to ban betting operators from sponsoring English football clubs, voiced his disappointment to BBC’s Today programme over the need for a consultation period.
Watson was joined by Newham Council, who also has a longstanding history of campaigning for the maximum stake of the terminals to be cut to £2, described the consultation period as “an unnecessary delay” and accused the government of “dragging its feet” over the issue.
In Parliament this morning, Crouch responded to the claims that the consultation was unnecessary, describing the consultation as ‘due process, that we expect people to contribute to.’ The former Chair of the DCMS John Whittingdale also welcomed the consultation period, he then offered Crouch the opportunity to confirm that any future laws made with regards to the betting industry would be “evidence-based” which Crouch confirmed was the case.
Also in Parliament, Labour’s Conor McGinn, who is the Joint Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Horse Racing, pointed out that Horse Racing relies heavily on not only, the levy from bookmakers, but also advertising.
He then sought assurances from the Minister that she will work closely with the horse racing and gambling industry to ensure that whilst protecting those that are vulnerable to gambling addiction, there is also protection for jobs and economic benefits that come from Horse Racing and race tracks.
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), who last month reiterated that ‘betting shops offer the safest place to gamble on the high street, as responsible gambling is at the heart of their day to day running,’ stated that the report detailed a number of proposals that it will respond to.
In a statement issued in response to the report, The ABB commented: “We believe the focus of any final decision should be to ensure measures are adopted that will be of genuine benefit to problem gamblers.
“Betting shops cater for over 6 million customers every year and the vast majority of them gamble responsibly. We know that most problem gamblers use 7 or more different types of gambling products, therefore there is a challenge for the whole gambling industry to move from a position where there is a stable level of problem gambling in this country to one where problem gambling rates are decreasing.
“Betting shops are investing very significant sums of money to help identify those at risk so that they get the help that they need, we are continually updating and working to improve responsible gambling measures.”
The releasing of the review led to shares in William Hill gaining 2% and Ladbrokes Coral gaining 0.6% in morning trading, possibly indicating that many insiders held the perception the review would be tougher on bookmakers than it was.