Who needs a government gambling White Paper when it appears that reform is writing itself.
That’s the message streaming out of the ether as a call for an all-out ban on gambling adverts builds up a powerful head of steam.
Last week the English Premier League authorities unilaterally agreed to ban all teams from blazing principal front-of-shirt advertising by betting firms by the end of the 2025-26 football season; although–on the basis that higher authorities don’t intervene–sleeve sponsorship will still be allowed.
Now comes the news–according to a just-conducted survey by the charity ‘Gambling With Lives’–that just over half the Great British public is in favour of an outright ban on gambling advertising, in all its manifestations.
Furthermore, the poll records that 60 percent of respondents also backed tight new limits on online stakes.
In the absence of White Paper publication–last week, this week, which week?–, speculation continues to run rife and unabated.
Word on the street is that the current Tory administration is girding-up to squeeze the UK gambling industry, and particularly the nation’s world-beating iGaming sector, harder than ever – until the monetary pips squeak, with an additional levy on profits.
The minister currently sitting in the revolving chair that is also known as the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport–there have been half-a-dozen since the White Paper was first launched in December, 2020–is expected to reject a blanket ban on gambling advertising in sports.
Why bother, it could be argued, when the industry is doing a pretty good job at self-regulating.
Gambling With Lives, which supports families bereaved by gambling-related suicide, would not agree.
“[Our] poll displays the strength of public sentiment on gambling advertising,” said a spokesperson for the charity.
“The Premier League’s decision to remove ads from shirts but leave them all over stadiums and across broadcasts, is a cynical attempt to avoid regulation.
“This data shows the public won’t be tricked into thinking it’s enough. If gambling reforms fail to significantly restrict gambling advertising, they’ll be woefully out of step with a public that expects action.”
The Gambling With Lives survey polled a representative 1,009 adults across the country. Nearly 70 percent of respondents thought under-18-year-olds should not be exposed to gambling advertising, 64 percent supported affordability checks on people betting more than £100 a month. And 60 percent saw gambling as a “danger” to family life.
White Paper, Bad Paper
In counter data, the UK gambling industry’s representative Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) are keen to point out that, according to their research, gambling harms hit 0.03 percent of the millions who bet and enjoy “a flutter” on a regular basis.
Anti-gambling campaigners and militants, if not calling for an outright ban on betting, hope the coming White Paper’s expected statutory levy will pay for additional research and treatment for addicts.
In this they are joined by even the most committed and fervent pro-gamer.
Who in their right mind wants to see any addict suffer?
And even liberal organs of the anti-gambling coalition are warning that an excessive crackdown on a regulated market will only have the deeply negative effect of driving punters into the clutches of the illicit gaming demi-monde.
“The gambling industry creates jobs and pays money into the economy. No one wants to see it annihilated,” concedes Carolyn Harris, MP, Labour Chair of the All Party Gambling Related Harm Parliamentary Group.
“But it needs to be reshaped, so it will be more accountable and have less obscene profits.”
Responded the BGC: “We strongly support the gambling review. But any changes introduced by the government must not drive gamblers towards the growing unsafe, unregulated [bad] market online, where billions of pounds are being staked.”
Is there anyone out there?
We’re still waiting.