Major changes to make the UK the best and safest gaming nation in the world were promised by the British government this week with confirmation of the start of a long-awaited Official Review of the country’s 2005 Gambling Act.
Simultaneously, in a preemptory move, Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), also confirmed that the minimum age for Lotto and National Lottery scratch card players will be increased from 16- to 18-years-old for online sales by April next year and by October at the latest for paper, across-the-counter, sales.
The Official Review–a key element of the government’s political manifesto–will run for 16-weeks until March 31, 2021.
It has been welcomed by major players and stakeholders across the UK’s betting community and is designed to bring legislation in line with the boom and warp-speed of contemporary iGaming and Internet platforms. And, crucially, one of its major objectives will be to tackle the thorny and much-disputed issue of problem gambling.
“Whilst millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analogue law in a digital age,” said Dowden.
“From an era of having a flutter in a high street bookmaker, casino, racecourse or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed.
“This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely.
“The government recognises the need to balance the enjoyment people get from gambling with the right regulatory framework and protections,” Dowden continued.
“This builds upon our clear track record of introducing tough measures to protect people from the risk of gambling harm [such as] banning the use of credit cards, launching tighter age verification checks and cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals.”
As well as protecting punters, the DCMS is also putting advertising standards, underage gamblers and the work of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) under the spotlight.
Betting limits, the so-called VIP gambling sector, promotional offers and wider social responsibilities, all will be explored.
The Review’s findings “will be used to inform any changes to the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure customer protection is at the heart of the regulations, while giving those that gamble safely the freedom to do so,” the DCMS said in a press statement.
Upcoming anticipated changes in the law, once the Review has been digested, will have far-sweeping changes for the gaming industry, most insiders concur.
Not only regulatory oversight of the industry is at stake, but also, quite possibly, multi-million-pound sponsorship deals for many sports teams and other financial tie-ins.
Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BCG) has welcomed the Review.
He said: “[It should be] wide-ranging and evidence-led. It’s an important opportunity to drive further changes on safer gambling introduced by the industry in the past year.
“Problem gambling may be low at around 0.7 per cent and as the DCMS has said there is no evidence that it has increased in the last 20 years, but one problem gambler is one too many. So I hope Ministers will focus in with laser-like precision on problem gamblers and those at risk.
“The Government must ensure that any changes do not drive people to the unregulated black market online, where there aren’t any safeguards to protect vulnerable people.”