It must be that time of year. Once again anti-gambling blowhards have wheeled out Conservative Cassandra Sir Iain Duncan Smith who, true to form, has launched yet another tired diatribe against the perceived evils of gambling.
Somewhat ironically, the Tory backbencher today wields more soft power and influence than he ever did during his aborted spell as leader of his party and Leader of the Opposition (2001-2003).
Once again he’s issued a call for “wholesale reform” of the UK betting industry. But this time, controversially, he’s also calling for attendant banking controls.
And–using his leadership of the Centre for Social Justice think tank (CSJ) as a bully pulpit–Duncan Smith says he wants an “independent ombudsman” to police banks and betting firms so that players are better protected.
According to a newly released report by the CSJ, called “Not a Game”, problem gamblers generate around a quarter of the gaming industry’s profits – although they number less than one per cent of the population.
The pandemic super-charged iGaming, the report notes; with regular gamblers, for example, six times more likely to gamble online during Covid lockdowns than before.
Now the CSJ report argues that banks should adopt a “duty-of-care” which would allow them to proactively share clients’ financial information with a gambling ombudsman — and thus, one assumes, arbitrarily control their clients’ personal gambling spend.
“The gambling industry now poses a very real threat to our communities and the time has come to get a hold on this pernicious addiction which has such a strong connection to social problems, drug and alcohol addiction, debt, family breakdown and crime,” said Duncan Smith, who is also a leading member of the All-party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm.
“Only wholesale reform can meet the scale of the challenge posed by the well-engineered and sophisticated practices of the gambling industry to recruit and retain their customers,” said the MP for Chingford and Woodford Green.
Employing an estimated 100,000 people, paying around £3 billion in tax (US$4.25bn/€3.48bn), adding a further £10 billion in annual Value Added (US$14.18bn/€11.6bn), with the national lottery alone contributing over £40 billion to charity (US$56.72bn/€46.40bn), the UK betting the industry and its guiding 2005 Gambling Act is now under review.
Big changes, insiders concur, are a given.
That traditional betting and the more recent iGaming space will be transformed, codified and tighter controlled is beyond doubt.
But Duncan Smith’s controversial and interventionist proposal is unlikely to find favour with even his natural allies of libertarians and “Born Free” Tory Knights of the Shire, never mind gambling’s Great British punters.