DCMS launches inquiry into ‘struggling’ British gambling regulation

UK

As the long-awaited Gambling Act White Paper review approaches, the cross-party DCMS Select Committee is set to conduct an inquiry into existing British gambling regulation. 

The group will use the inquiry to focus on 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. 

Explaining that the 2005 Gambling Act review ‘concluded last year’, the committee stated that a White Paper on reforms is ‘expected to be published shortly’. 

DCMS Committee member Julie Elliott MP, of the Labour Party, commented: “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.”

The Committee highlighted a lack of faith in the nation’s two key regulatory authorities on gambling, stating that both the UK Gambling Commission and the DCMS have faced criticism ‘for their approach’.

For example, the DCMS received criticism for its attitude towards video game loot boxes while the UGKC faced backlash in the aftermath of the Football Index collapse in 2021. 

Furthermore, the Select Committee stated that a number of governmental organisations have called for more action to prevent problem gambling, including the Public Accounts Committee, National Audit Office and a House of Lord Committee. 

With a deadline of February 10, the organisation has requested evidence in support of its enquiry, meaning that submissions could occur after the release of the Gambling Act White Paper. 

In calling out for this evidence, the Committee has asked for focus on five areas. These include 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.

Representing 90 per cent of the UK’s regulated operators, the Betting and Gaming Council, along with its Chief Executive Michael Dugher, welcomed the inquiry in response to the news.

Dugher stated: “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.

“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 Council reinforced the importance of a successful regulated UK betting market, stating that it contributes £7.1bn in total Gross Revenue Added to the nation’s economy and £4.2bn to the treasury in taxes, whilst supporting 110,000 jobs. 

Nonetheless, the BGC warned that MPs should ‘be mindful’ of threats presented by illegal gambling, pointing out ‘tough sanctions’ introduced by other European jurisdictions that may have amplified these threats, such as curbs on advertising, stake restrictions and affordability checks. 

The trade and standards body used these countries as examples, citing figures showing that the black market now accounts for 66 per cent of all money staked in Norway after strict regulations were introduced, as well as 57 and 23 per cent for France and Italy respectively.

Dugher added: “Problem gambling may be low by international standards at 0.3 per cent, 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.”