The government review of the UK’s gambling laws appears unlikely to spring any surprises when it is finally published today, if an article in The Times written by the minister in charge today is anything to go by.
One of the biggest changes is the imposition of stake limits for online slots for the first time, with younger players limited to £2 spins until they turn 25, when the maximum stake will increase to £25.
While affordability checks for players are still on the cards, the government has yet to make any hard and fast decisions, opting to consult once again on the subject. However, according to the Times, the government is keen to see those who lose more than £125 a day face a ‘financial vulnerability check’ to make sure they are not bankrupts or have CCJs (County Court Judgements) against their name.
Losses of £1,000 a day, or £2,000 over 90 days, will face greater checks, apparently involving banks, to see if the player can afford such losses.
Another decision kicked into the long grass, despite seemingly general support for the concept, is the mandatory levy to cover treatment, education and research into problem gambling. The article suggests that the government will also consult further on this, with the widely mooted figure of 1% of profits for larger operators referenced.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer wrote that she had listened to campaigners since being appointed at the start of February and had taken heed of what they said.
“That’s why the government is committed to an overhaul of our rules with an approach centred around balance — to protect the most vulnerable, but not get in the way of the majority of people who want to have a flutter. We live in a freedom-loving democracy where, for the overwhelming majority of adults, betting is a bit of fun and it doesn’t come with ruinous consequences.
“But one that also recognises that our regulations are not up to the task of protecting people in the age of the smartphone. There are blindspots in the system that are being exploited, keeping addicts addicted and disproportionately impacting some of our communities who are least able to afford it.”
Perhaps a little more of concern for the industry is Frazer’s pledge to ‘strengthen our regulator and make sure it is as savvy as the companies it regulates’, given that the Gambling Commission already holds great power without much accountability, according to a report last year by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Betting & Gaming.
While restrictions tighten for online casinos, it seems land-based casinos will see a touch of deregulation with simpler planning permission to expand their properties and a four fold increase in the number of machines allowed in small casinos to 80. It has also been suggested that larger casinos might be allowed to offer credit to attract “high rollers”.
SBC News will provide more details on the White Paper when it is published later today.