BGC reinforces ‘freedom of choice’ with white paper reaction

Image: Shutterstock

Welcoming the publication of the government’s Gambling Act review white paper, the Betting and Gaming Council praised the proposals as a ‘once in a generation moment for change’.

Shortly after DCMS Secretary Lucy Frazer announced the reforms to parliament, and the white paper was published to the DCMS website, the BGC issued two separate statements to address the legislative changes. 

Michael Dugher, BGC CEO, highlighted that the association has worked ‘extremely hard and closely’ with the government over the 28 months of the Gambling Act review. 

Dugher reinforced that the BGC was established to examine reforms, while representing the industry and the 110,000 jobs within it when formed in July 2019, just 18 months before the review began in December 2020. 

“On behalf of our many members, the 110,000 people whose jobs rely on the regulated betting and gaming industry, and the 22.5 million people who enjoy a bet each month, we welcome the much-delayed publication of the Gambling White Paper,” explained Dugher. 

“We need time to consider the full detail and impacts of these proposals, but it is important to recognise the BGC has worked closely with the government to deliver a wide-ranging package of balanced, proportionate and effective reforms.

“Our members generate £7.1bn for the economy and raise £4.2bn in tax every year, and the measures announced today should protect jobs and sustain that vital contribution, while also building on our own work to drive world-leading standards in safer gambling.”

Reflecting on the legislative proposals, some of the BGC’s desired outcomes have been achieved as the DCMS proposed to create a new ombudsman to handle customer complaints and redress. 

Additionally, Dugher welcomed the introduction of stake limits on slots – varying depending on the age of customers – and ‘overdue plans to modernise the regulation of the casino sector’.

Regarding the research, education and treatment levy that was also proposed, Dugher maintained that the BGC has long-called for ‘enhanced contributions’ of its members in the industry to be made mandatory, noting that voluntary industry donations between 2019 and 2024 have amounted to £110m. 

Dugher added: “We welcome the decision to reject proposals from anti-gambling prohibitionists for blanket, low level and intrusive affordability checks, as well as their calls for bans on advertising, sports sponsorship and consumer promotions, which would harm our best-loved sports like horse racing and football, threaten jobs and drive customers to the growing unsafe, unregulated gambling black market online.

“These proposed measures will mean significant change but hopefully much needed regulatory stability to ensure our members can focus entirely on delivering for customers.”

Remaining hopeful that Ministers will ultimately reject proposals made from ‘anti-gambling prohibitionists’, the BGC CEO explained that the council retains its long-held view that gambling is ultimately a case of ‘freedom of choice’. 

Despite all of this, it remained apparent that many of the review’s proposals were not concrete decisions, with many waiting on further stakeholder consultation, such as with the UK Gambling Commission and the NHS

While the government prepares to move ahead with the proposals, Dugher remained adamant that the BGC’s members will continue to focus on finding a balance between player protection and retaining the enjoyment of those that aren’t vulnerable to problem gambling.

The BGC Chief Executive concluded: “This White Paper is a once in a generation moment for change and its publication must draw a line under the lengthy and often polarised debates on gambling. 

“Betting and gaming is popular, contrary to misconceptions, the numbers of people betting are stable and not increasing, problem gambling rates are stable and low, and our members are a genuine British business success story, ploughing billions into the economy. 

“The focus should now be on continuing to drive higher standards, whilst investing in jobs and businesses in the UK’s world leading regulated industry.”