The Gambling White Papers: What We Know
In December 2020, the UK government announced the publishing of gambling white papers which would announce reforms to the current Gambling Act of 2005.
Just over 2 years have gone by with the publication being constantly delayed. With chaos in Westminster over the Conservative Party leadership and issues surrounding Covid lockdown violations, it’s not hard to see why gambling reform has been put on the back burner.
However, we could be closer to an official publication on what exactly these reforms are going to entail.
In March, new Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer announced that an overhaul of Labour’s 2005 Gambling Act would be coming ‘soon’.
The papers are thought to include radical reforms, as well as providing stricter guidance on how operators should provide fair and transparent services, protect customers more adequately from problem gambling, and how the government can reduce the risk associated with problem gambling.
Reasons for the Shake-Up
Critics of the current regulations want stricter reforms to enhance the decades-old laws that are currently in place. They want further protection against problem gambling as they feel the current laws do not correlate with the advancement of online gambling nor do they provide adequate checks for people prone to excessive gambling.
According to a parliamentary report in 2021, three-fifths of industry profits come from 5% of users who are problem gamblers or are in real danger of becoming problem gamblers.
However, the recommendations are not thought to require changes to the primary legislation and are seen as more of an evolution, rather than a revolution of the current laws.
New Measures Which Could be Introduced
The Gambling White Papers are thought to present a substantial number of reforms which will encompass various aspects of the casino and betting industry in the UK.
Some of the reforms rumoured to appear in the White Papers include:
- A compulsory levy on gambling operators, which will help fund the research and development of problem gambling programmes. While most gambling companies do pay contributions to these types of organisations, these vary from company to company, regardless of the size of their profits.
- Gambling operators will be forced to impose credit checks on gambling customers to ensure they have the means to place bets and help them to avoid racking up big losses.
- A ban on VIP loyalty schemes, which can incur reckless spending.
- An end to front-of-shirt football gambling sponsorship. However, since this is a voluntary scheme by football clubs, it will be seen if a compromise can be made which will see sponsorship deals unaffected.
- The introduction of maximum stakes on online slot machines, ranging between £2 and £5. This would bring them in line with high street machines.
Pushback to the reforms
Despite the potential of the proposed reforms to make gambling regulations in the UK some of the most secure and robust in the world, there has been some concern over them.
For instance, there has been some public pushback to the inclusion of ‘affordability checks’, with punters highlighting an invasion of privacy.
Relating to this, it is also feared that these kinds of imposed checks will drive gamblers to avoid playing at licenced online casinos in favour of unregulated, black-market casinos.
There is also concern from the Betting and Gaming council surrounding a 1% fee on all members which the government could impose. This is because high-street premises and clubs, such as bingo clubs, would be hit with the same tariff. Online casinos have significantly fewer operating costs than physical casinos. Analysis from the BGC suggests that this 1% fee would be the equivalent of 10-15% on post-tax profits. This could lead to the closure of a high number of high-street businesses due to the global economic downturn.
Michael Dugher, the CEO of the BGC, wrote in a column for politicshome.com;
No industry can survive such a mortal wound for long, especially in the face of rising costs and falling crowds due to the economic headwinds including a cost-of-living crisis.
There is much speculation as to when the White Papers will be published, along with the contents of the publication.
While reform to the outdated 2005 Gambling Law is welcomed by certain sections of society, it remains a mystery as to see if the concerns surrounding the guidelines, which could see the industry being irreparably damaged financially, will be addressed by the government.
One thing is for sure, it won’t be long before the gambling industry in the UK takes a very different shape from how it is now.
Emily is our Casino Researcher and statistical mastermind. She uncovers all the latest trends through the numbers and creates valuable insights to our readers and internally, so we can cover our articles and journalism from a statistical background and angle.Read more about the author