Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson is to call for greater restrictions on online gambling in order to align the sector more closely with land-based gambling rules.
At the IPPR policy seminar later today, Watson will call for the introduction of limits to spend, to stake and to speed in online gambling and the introduction of a new ‘E Category’ to gambling legislation to regulate online gambling products.
However the Remote Gambling Association has warned that unnecessary restrictions could actually have a negative effect and drive players to illegal sites.
Watson said: “Our current gambling laws are completely unfit for the digital age. The 2005 Act was written so long ago it has more mentions of the postal service than the internet. Whereas gambling in the offline world is highly regulated, the lack of controls on online gambling is leading to vulnerable consumers suffering huge losses.
“Online gambling companies have a responsibility to protect their customers from placing bets that they cannot afford. But too often, these operators have either neglected the care of their customers or have been too slow in their due diligence.
“We need to see a culture of limits introduced to internet gambling: a system of thresholds placed on the spend, stake and speed of online gambling that will give safeguards to consumers. Labour’s new policies announced today will provide a framework for both industry and the regulator to achieve that.”
In response, the RGA argued that the online gambling industry actually has greater safeguards baked into the sector because of operators’ ability to have a comprehensive view of their play through their account.
It said: “We fully embrace the need to move faster to tackle problem gambling through effective regulation based on innovation, evidence and customer data and we are committed to working with the Government and Opposition to achieve that goal.
“We support moves towards affordability and targeted intervention to ensure that those at risk of harm are identified without restricting or penalising those who enjoy their play and gamble responsibly. Online operators continually monitor patterns of play making thousands of interventions each month to prevent harm occurring and we will input fully to this responsible gambling policy process.
“The online environment has the huge advantage of providing a complete overview of player spending patterns and behaviours, using this information can prove to be a more effective and more sophisticated way to tackle problem gambling and thereby avoid arbitrary limits that risk driving customers to the unregulated and illegal gambling market.”
Watson, as a key member of the troubled party in opposition to the current UK Conservative government, has been conducting a review into gambling over the past few years and these recommendations are the latest to emerge from that process.
He is highlighting the gap between the online and offline regulations and also wants to see a system of online affordability checks that ensure customer due diligence is carried out before a bet is made.
Lord Chadlington, Conservative Peer and former Chairman of Action on Addiction, will respond to Watson’s policy calls by confirming that the 2005 Gambling Act is not fit for purpose in the digital age – further highlighting cross-Party, cross-House support for action.