Paul Scully joins DCMS BGC

DCMS Select Committee to probe state of UK gambling regulation

The cross-party DCMS Select Committee will conduct an inquiry into existing British gambling regulation, ahead of the Gambling Act review White Paper judgement.

Areas of focus for the group will include the government’s progress on addressing gambling-related issues raised by parliament, how regulation can keep up with innovations in online gambling and the relationship between betting, sports and broadcasting.

The Committee noted that the review of the 2005 Gambling Act ‘concluded last year’ and that a White Paper on reforms is ‘expected to be published shortly’. Earlier this month Gambling Minister Paul Scully emphasised that the government’s spotlight on gambling would not dim after the review.

DCMS Committee member Julie Elliott MP, of the Labour Party, said: “Gambling acts as an enjoyable pastime for large numbers of players, but regulation is struggling to keep pace with the rapidly changing way in which it happens today. 

“This puts people at risk of the devastating harm it can sometimes cause to lives. The DCMS Committee’s inquiry will look at the scale of gambling-related harm in the UK, what the Government should do about it and how a regulatory regime can best adapt to new forms of online gambling, based both in and outside the UK.”

Taking aim at the track record of the UK’s two key authorities on gambling, the Committee stated that the DCMS Department and the UK Gambling Commission have both faced criticism ‘for their approach’.

For example, the UKGC faced backlash in 2021 in the aftermath of the Football Index collapse, whilst the DCMS has faced questioning on its policy on video game loot boxes.

Additionally, the Committee has noted that the Public Accounts Committee, National Audit Office and a House of Lords Committee have all called for more action to prevent problem gambling.

In support of its inquiry, the DCMS Committee has called for evidence, with a deadline of 10 February – meaning submissions could occur after the White Paper publication – revolving around five areas.

These are the scale of UK gambling-related harm, the key priorities of the White paper, how broad the term ‘gambling’ should be, whether it is possible for regulators to stay ahead of regulation, and what additional problems arise when operators are based outside the UK.

Responding to the inquiry, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which represents 90% of regulated UK operators, and its Chief Executive, Michael Dugher, were welcoming of the news.

“As the standards body for much of the regulated industry, we strongly welcome this inquiry announced today as a further opportunity for the regulated sector to show our continued commitment to raising standards in safer gambling,” Dugher remarked.

“I am sure that the Committee’s inquiry, like the Government’s Gambling Review, will be genuinely ‘evidence-led’ and has to strike a careful balance in making recommendations that are about protecting the vulnerable, whilst not unfairly impacting on the millions of customers who bet perfectly safely and responsibly.”

The BGC reiterated its long-held argument that the regulated UK betting sector contributes £7.1bn in total Gross Value Added to the UK economy and £4.2bn to the Treasury in taxes annually, whilst supporting 110,000 jobs.

However, the trade and standards body called on MPs to ‘be mindful’ of the black market threat, pointing to other European countries which introduced ‘tough sanctions’ such as stake restrictions, blanket affordability checks and curbs on advertising.

Using Norway as an example, the BGC cited figures showing that the black market now accounts for 66% of all money staked in the country following strict regulations, with other case studies including France at 57% and Italy at 23%.

Dugher continued: “Problem gambling may be low by international standards at 0.3%, but one problem gambler is one too many. So we look forward to hearing from the Committee about what more can be done. 

“We must also ensure that they do not drive people to the unsafe, unregulated black market online, where there aren’t any safeguards to protect vulnerable people.

“On behalf of over 110,000 people whose jobs depend on the regulated betting and gaming industry, we also look forward to setting out the contribution our industry makes to the UK economy and our commitment to further investment.”SBC News DCMS Select Committee to probe state of UK gambling regulation

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