Stakeholders must ensure that the final reforms implemented across the UK, following a much publicised Gambling Act review, ensure that jobs and investments across towns and cities are protected for the long-term.

Those are the words of Jo Gideon MP for Stoke-On-Trent Central, who was addressing the ongoing efforts in a timely Betting and Gaming Council blog that comes as a first batch of consultations draws to a close.

Following the white paper’s much delayed publication earlier in the year, this initial wave covers age verification in premises; remote games design, building on earlier work on online slots; direct marketing and cross-selling and financial risk and vulnerability checks for remote operators.

A next round of consultations will place a focus on socially responsible incentives and gambling management tools, the UK Gambling Commission’s Executive Director, Tim Miller, noted last month.

“Often, the debate around betting is terse, ill-informed, and frankly patronising”

Citing the influence that online gambling juggernaut bet365 has had on her own city, Gideon addressed a debate that she labelled as often being “terse, ill-informed, and frankly patronising”.

“Often, the debate around betting is terse, ill-informed, and frankly patronising. First and foremost, it is, and remains, a hobby,” she wrote.

“This is true for Stoke as it is for many other places. For my constituents, having a bet with money they have earned and paid tax on is no different to going to the pub and having a pint.

“And yet that hobby is often derided or judged, and by association, so are the businesses that operate in the UK legitimately, in a highly regulated market. If this hobby, and the businesses which support it, are undermined, it will have an economic impact.”

Despite looking within her immediate region throughout, the impacts across numerous other cities outside of London are also cited as benefiting “from a UK sector which leads the world”.

She added: “Across the country, betting and gaming supports around 110,000 jobs, generates £7.1bn for the economy and contributes £4.2bn in tax for vital frontline services. 

“That investment flows from high streets to hospitality, from tourism to tech, in Stoke and across the UK.”

Turning attention back to reforms and the aforementioned white paper, Gideon welcomed a “once-in-a generation opportunity to modernise betting regulations” in a balanced, proportionate and evidence-based manner.

“…much is still undecided, and indecision causes uncertainty for customers and businesses”

“No one is immune to some of the risks betting can bring; in this respect, it is very similar to the alcohol industry,” she continued.

“So measures like an ombudsman to improve customer redress, enhanced spending checks online to ensure swift interventions can take place, and modest modernisation plans for land-based operators like casinos, are all very welcome.

“But much is still undecided, and indecision causes uncertainty for customers and businesses. The white paper launched eight separate consultations, and the proposals arising from those consultations could yet have huge ramifications on the betting and gaming sector, and for Stoke. It is vital we get those right if we are to protect jobs and investment.”

In order to achieve this, “the regulator has a key role” it was written as a conclusion neared. The UKGC, Gideon argued, must ensure that consultations and final proposals align with political direction set by the government.

“That is particularly true on the thorny issue of affordability checks. When these were proposed as part of the white paper, we were told they would be frictionless and occur without customers being aware,” she concluded.

“That must be the case, or it risks driving punters from the regulated sector toward unregulated, unsafe operators on the black market.”