UK drives gambling white paper ambitions as consultations advance

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A series of consultations have been launched by the UK government and Gambling Commission that are tasked with advancing ambitions of the recent white paper Gambling Act review.

The former is designed to assess online slots, which are deemed “a higher-risk gambling product” that are “associated with large losses, long sessions and binge play”.

In a bid to drive government goals and “update gambling rules for the smartphone era”, the deliberation will consider how to conduct financial risk checks for problem gambling and at what level stake limits should be set at for the aforementioned titles.

Stuart Andrew, Gambling Minister, said: “Three months ago we laid out proposals to update gambling laws and make them fit for the smartphone age.

“Slot machines in casinos, arcades and betting shops have strict stake limits but very similar games online have none, which can lead to very large and rapid losses of money.

“Today we are launching a consultation for a range of views on what the stake limit should be. I encourage you to have your say.”

The government is consulting on a maximum stake of between £2 and £15 per spin, with options to introduce greater protections for 18 to 24-year-olds also possible. These could include lower stake limits of £2 to £4, or requirements on operators to consider age as a risk factor for gambling-related harm.

On a retail basis, a relaxation of casino rules to permit up to 80 gaming machines is being considered, as is an 80/20 higher to lower stakes ratio across arcades and bingo halls in a bid to better meet customer demands and save on energy costs. Cashless payments and legal age limits will also fall on the radar.

It is hoped these land-based consultations will allow the land-based sector to thrive sustainably, respond to customer demand, and continue to recover from the impacts of COVID.

In addition, later in the year the government will also launch a consultation on the details of a gambling operator levy to fund gambling research, education and treatment.

Options to be explored include an overall design, amount to be collected, funding distribution and governance.

“Harmful gambling has widespread impacts. It affects more than people’s money, but their relationships and health as well,” said Will Quince, Health Minister.

“We are working to protect people from the damaging impacts of harmful gambling by improving treatment options with specialist NHS gambling addiction treatment services.

“Seven new gambling clinics will open this summer bringing vital support to more parts of the country, on top of the eight that are already open.

“We will be working to better understand the evidence received in order to inform our approach.”

The regulator said that its stake limit consultation will be open for 8 weeks, with the land based counterpart lasting 10 weeks.

To complement this, the UK Gambling Commission has detailed a series of consultations regarding financial risk checks, speed and intensity of online games, age verification in premises, management licences for operators and the processes of the Commission’s regulatory panel.

Tim Miller, Gambling Commission Executive Director for research and policy, commented: “These consultations from the government and the Gambling Commission offer the opportunity for people to have their say on proposals aimed at empowering and protecting consumers. 

“Their launch represents a key moment in turning the commitments in the white paper into reality.”