Whilst the Gambling Act Review has been delayed so far this year, we hope to see progress soon. So, what is it and what can we expect? Jake McKey explains…
In late 2020, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced a wide-ranging review of the 2005 Gambling Act. At GamCare, we welcomed this as an opportunity to ensure that the voice of those who use our services is heard by the government to ensure they can equip treatment services for the digital age. Later this year, a white paper is due to drop which will outline sweeping changes to the sector.
What is the Gambling Act?
The Gambling Act 2005 sets out how gambling in the UK is regulated, creating and setting out the functions of the Gambling Commission as the regulator for all gambling services offered in Great Britain (gambling regulation is devolved in Northern Ireland).
Why does that Act need a review?
In recent years, the Gambling Act has been widely perceived as ‘analogue legislation in a digital age’, as Government were not able to anticipate the pace of technological growth, change and accessibility of the online market, as well as the types of electronic gambling available in venues.
What could change? Why does GamCare think this is important?
This review has the potential to change several aspects of gambling regulation. The review is a wide-ranging exercise that will take in responses from as many people and organisations as possible, including those affected by gambling harms. Below is a collection of the key topics the upcoming white paper will address as well as a short summary of our positions:
1. Online protections
More can and should be done to protect and educate vulnerable groups, particularly children and young people at risk from online gambling harms. 75% of those who come to us for support and treatment cite problems with online gambling, a number that is rising year on year. 88% of those surveyed who use our services think not enough is done to reduce online gambling harms.
2. Advertising, sponsorship and branding
Those who use our services tell us that the volume of advertisements across sports, esports and beyond is problematic for maintaining their recovery. We are particularly concerned about the targeting of online advertising at young people and believe that this needs greater attention.
There is a case for tightening advertising protections where advertisements could routinely include prominent and engaging safer gambling messaging. Adverts should signpost sources of support such as the National Gambling Helpline and other resources in a more consistent and helpful way for people to easily access the help and support they might need.
3. A new ombudsman
A lack of recourse to an impartial adjudicator can cause emotional distress and affect an individual’s recovery. We support an ombudsman offering a fair, expeditious, and transparent resolution of complaints in a confidential, independent, and impartial manner. We are committed to working with the government on how redress arrangements can focus on the customer’s needs.
4. New powers and resources of the Gambling Commission
The Gambling Commission is not properly resourced to regulate such a fast moving, largescale, industry. Funding raised for research, education and treatment much enable the Commission to meet the goals of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms. We believe that outcomes matter more than how the funding is structured.
This needs to include clearer objectives, targets and metrics to reduce harm and to give focus and direction for operators and the education and treatment sectors. The Commission should set these in consultation with GamCare and partners across the sector.
5. Age limits and online verification
We support increased protections for all vulnerable groups, particularly young people. Advertising protections for all vulnerable groups, particularly children and young people should be tightened. We hope the white paper will result in action to address this issue so young people receive adequate regulatory protection from increasingly high-risk activities. It is also vital that we continue to develop education and support for young people about the potential harm of gambling.
6. Future Funding
Any increase in funding should prioritise gambling education, treatment and research to ensure our service users and all affected by harms are fully supported. We will continue to represent those who use our services by continuing our engagement with policy makers and officials, utilising our strong evidence and research base on gambliing treatment services to represent the voice of our service users at the highest levels of government.