UK Government White Paper
The key story from the UK will be the publication of the Government White Paper on the review of the 2005 Gambling Act, with the Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), Michael Dugher, writing in Monday’s Daily Telegraph about the political ramifications.
He stressed that Ministers and MPs must consider the opinions of their constituents, particularly those in the so-called ‘Red Wall’, working class seats which the governing Conservative Party gained from Labour in 2019 and which are looking increasingly vulnerable.
He said: “Many voters see betting, and the sports which rely on revenues from betting, as part of their culture. They are resentful of ‘COVID mission creep’. Boris Johnson has enough on his plate without picking another fight with Tory MPs concerned about state interference in personal freedoms.
“Many of those Conservatives are trying to hold onto working class voters who regard restrictions on betting as a culture war waged by high-handed politicians who don’t approve of how they spend their time and money.”
He referenced a recent Racing TV survey, which we covered in this newsletter just before Christmas, which highlighted that many Red Wall voters would react badly if any new regulations infringed on their privacy, particularly in relation to gambling firms having access to personal banking information.
Dugher went on: “How the government safeguards jobs and personal freedoms, prevents gamblers drifting off to the unsafe black market, and ensures more protections for the vulnerable and those at risk, without interfering in the enjoyment of millions of responsible gamblers, is a balancing act.”
He also repeated his view that stricter regulation could result in a smaller regulated industry, stressing that people will still gamble, but they’d be pushed into the black market with onerous restrictions.
He said: “If people are restricted from betting with licensed operators, with all their safer gambling measures, they will simply move to the many unlicensed, unregulated and unsafe gambling websites in the black market. Ministers are walking a tightrope. We hope they keep their balance.”
Speaking of the BGC, they have also stressed to operators that safer gambling messaging should be conveyed in sports sponsorships.
Highlighting the financial importance of such deals in various sports, including horse racing and darts, the BGC also shone a light on some of the key safer gambling initiatives conducted by their members.
These include Betway’s safer gambling training scheme, which has been delivered to all teams with which they partner, as well as Kindred’s ‘Know Your Limits’ series which featured Wayne Rooney, Carl Frampton and Paddy Brennan promoting gambling responsibly.
Other initiatives include the £10m Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme run through GamCare and YGAM, which is funded by the BGC, as well as a £1m gambling education programme launched four years ago, which is funded by SkyBet and delivered by EPIC Risk Management.
BGC members have also committed 20% of all TV and radio adverts to safer gambling messaging.
Dugher said: “Our members are proud to provide financial support to sport in a variety of ways, but it’s also important that this goes hand-in-hand with our work on promoting safer gambling. Around 30 million people in Britain – half the population – enjoy a flutter, and the vast majority do so safely.
“As we wait for the Government to publish its Gambling White Paper, I hope that promoting safer gambling continues to be an integral part of the betting and gaming industry’s commitment to supporting sport.”
Moving to Sweden and a month before the law is due to come into force, a consultation has been launched on a lower deposit limit for casinos of SEK4,000 per month. It will run until 17 January, with the law coming into effect from 7 February to 30 June. Sign up bonuses will be limited to SEK100 too.
The deteriorating situation regarding COVID and the related protection of “vulnerable” players has been cited as the reason behind the move, the same reason that was given for the introduction of a similar cap of SEK5,000 in the summer of 2020, which kept getting extended.
In response to the new limit, secretary-general of gambling trade association Branscheforenigen for Onlinespel (BOS), Gustaf Hoffstedt, said that as the limit only applied to gambling with one operator, people would just register accounts with other betting companies. He said this was evidenced by “a sharp increase” in the number of different accounts held by a single player since the cap was brought in.
He said this was counterproductive as it means it is harder to assess overall player habits, stating “when gambling becomes as fragmented as it does with deposit limits, no individual gaming company can capture risky gaming behaviour, and thus a cornerstone of Swedish consumer protection in the gaming law is lost.”
Staying in Sweden and Spelinspektionen has backed the proposals which were unveiled in October regarding the expansion of the country’s Gambling Act.
The plan is to give the regulator authority over all gambling available to players in Sweden, which would also mean offshore operators falling under their jurisdiction. This would be the case even if they are not targeting Swedish players directly, meaning operators could face action if they are not blocking Swedes from playing. This law is similar to that in the Netherlands with their regulator, the KSA, which saw a number of operators aggressively blocking Dutch players.
In a statement, the regulator said: “Spelinspektionen is generally positive to the proposal for an amendment to the Gaming Act scope. A simplification and extension of the concept reduces the risk of different interpretations regarding which gaming companies can target the Swedish market.
“Spelinspektionen agrees with the investigation in those considerations made regarding the proposal.”
There was concern expressed by the regulator regarding some of the details though, particularly the covert supervision proposals which would see Spelinspektionen attempt to buy online services through a hidden identity. Spelinspektionen also said that operators outside the EU would be more difficult to target, with an acceptance that targeting payment providers may be the key strategy.
Moving to the Netherlands, the Chairman of the gambling authority Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), Rene Jansen, highlighted the key aims for the next 12 months for the Dutch regulator.
As part of a “new phase in its supervision” of online games of chance, Jansen said there would be “more data-driven supervision” and they would “detect risks on that basis” based on the information operators must give to the regulator.
He went on to say: “Suppose there are two online providers with approximately the same number of players with roughly the same gaming behaviour.
“Suppose we then see that one provider performs a certain intervention in the field of addiction prevention significantly more often than the other, then this may be a reason for the KSA to look at how this difference can be explained.”
In the same post, he also highlighted the importance of responsibility to operators, stressing: “I can only reiterate the importance of responsible and socially aware behaviour. Individually, but also as a sector, for example through self-regulation. That should perhaps go further than the current Advertising Code Online Gaming.
He also acknowledged the controversy surrounding the marketing of games of chance in the Netherlands, saying political patience “is very limited” and that the government will “soon have to adopt a position” on potential prohibition of gambling adverts.
He continued: “Everyone understands that some degree of advertising is needed to entice players to switch from illegal to legal providers, but don’t overdo it, I would say. Otherwise, the shore turns the ship.”