In a bid to mitigate the risks associated with online gambling, the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG) has requested that a £2 limit is introduced on all online slot machine games.
The request follows on from a six-month review into the impacts of problem gambling, with the group underlining that further action from the Government and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is necessary to combat the issue.
The cross-party group has argued that there is no justification for online slot games to have stake levels above the £2 limit which is currently in place across retail venues, with the APPG highlighting ‘the disparity in content controls and stake and deposit limits between online and offline games.’
The GRH APPG, chaired by Carolyn Harris MP, took evidence from, among others, academics, problem gamblers, banks, charities and online gambling operators.
Commenting on the report, Harris said: “This report highlights the urgent need for a root and branch review of the regulation of online gambling. Stakes and prize limits online would be a major step forward in reducing the harm caused by the sector.
“It is not at all clear why the Gambling Commission is not looking at this as a matter of urgency. It is an abdication of its responsibility as a regulator. There must be consistent and appropriate regulation of all forms of gambling.
“I also urge the Government to urgently review the provision of research, education and treatment in the sector. Gamble Aware are not effectively carrying out this function and it should immediately be brought into a public health setting.”
The review carried out by the GRH APPG also emphasised that the UKGC is currently reviewing other aspects of online gambling regulation, however pointed out that the regulator has ‘made no mention of what is clearly one of the key issues to address – stake and prizes online.’
The group calls on online gambling operators to sign its ‘Charter for Regulatory Reform’, to signal their intention and support for the policy proposals and recommendations, outlined in its report.
As part of its recommendations, the GRH APPG has highlighted an ‘urgent need’ to ban the use of credit cards on online gambling sites, while additional and improved affordability checks are pivotal in tackling online problem gambling.
VIP accounts and inducements offered to gamblers are also addressed as part of the review, with the cross-party group stressing that such features should be restricted.
The report also recommended that online gambling operators significantly improve the measures they take to protect vulnerable and at-risk gamblers. Operators should also simplify their terms and conditions for easy comprehension.
Vice-Chair of the GRH APPG, Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith, added: “It is clear from this inquiry that the powers of the Gambling Commission need to be significantly strengthened. For too long, online gambling operators have exploited vulnerable gamblers to little or no retribution from the regulator.
“I therefore urge the Commission to look into this issue in greater depth. It is outrageous that there are not stake limits online, that gamblers are still able to gamble using credit cards online and that operators are able to continue to offer inducements to the vulnerable without proper sanction.”
GRH APPG has also suggested that a ‘smart statutory levy’ of 1% is introduced to fund research, and that the commissioning of research be transferred from GambleAware and the Gambling Commission to independent UK research councils and a public health setting.
Due to the political context, the group is yet to meet with the new Gambling Minister or any representative from the Gambling Commission. The group has confirmed that it will publish its full report after its final hearings.
Vice-Chair of the GRH APPG, Ronnie Cowan MP concluded: “It appears that the business model of some of these online gambling companies encourages and drives harmful gambling behaviour.
“These operators use various marketing and technological tools to extract as much money as possible from vulnerable gamblers, then use NDAs to cover up wrongdoings. This cannot continue to happen. The next Government and the Gambling Commission need to take radical actions to reduce gambling related harm.”