With the UK Government having promised review of the country’s Gambling Act at the time of the 2019 general election, such a step seems not only imminent but also necessary, as the country’s gambling legislation needs to get up to date with the current market realities.
Many changes have occurred across the sector since December 2019, including stricter regulatory rules regarding gambling advertising, underage individuals’ exposure to gambling ads and a ban imposed on credit cards’ use for gambling transactions, as well as restricting gambling sponsorship deals in football. The aforementioned steps only prove one thing that has been obvious over the past few years – the British lawmakers are taking a more restrictive stance to the sector, with them being aimed at making the local gambling industry safer and more transparent.
On the other hand, governing bodies, think tanks and charity organisations have also released reports regarding the state of the industry.
As the BBC reported in January, the number of hospitalised patients because of gambling-related issues has increased by 114% over a period of six years. On the other hand, money comparison website Finder has shared that 0.5% of the residents of the UK could be categorised as gambling addicts.
Various Campaigners Have Insisted on 2005 Gambling Act Review
Taking all of the aforementioned reports into account means that we could expect the existing gambling legislation to become subject to some changes. The current Gambling Act was finalised in 2005 and officially implemented in 2007 but the market has seen a lot of changes over the last 15 years, with an increasing part of the gambling sector becoming digitalised. Apart from that, there are many more gambling companies operating in the market now than at the time when the Gambling Act of 2005 was unveiled.
Considering the fact that gambling services have become more accessible online, along with some financial services allowing players to carry out transactions to and from various gambling sites or apps, making the legislative and regulatory framework more up to date is a must.
As a result, various campaigners, including the House of Lords have called for the UK Government to take stricter measures to regulate the industry, including a full ban to be imposed on gambling sponsorship deals. According to groups seeking a stricter regulatory regime to be imposed on the sector, some changes in the legislative framework are also needed so that the laws are in line with the current situation on the market.
Unfortunately, regulatory changes and restrictions do not always mean such changes would be efficient in reducing gambling-related harm. Some European countries have already experienced failures of their policies in terms of the stricter regulatory rules imposed on the gambling sector. For example, in some countries such as Sweden, the searches for unlicensed casinos actually increased from January to December 2019.
Off- and Online Gambling Realities Need to Be Taken into Account in the Gambling Act’s Review
As mentioned above, it is quite important for the competent authorities to make sure the UK Gambling Act is up to date with the current off- and online gambling sector realities.
Back in July, the House of Lords has called for a weekly deposit limit of £100 to be implemented, with the cap also backed by some anti-gambling campaigners who believe such a step would be reasonable. For the time being, reports say that the average UK resident gambles about £2.69 on a weekly basis.
However, when making changes in the existing legislative and regulatory framework for the gambling industry, the UK Government must take into account the number of gambling companies and available banking services. According to data provided by the Corporate Finance Institute, there are currently more than 300 banks operating in the UK, while over 2,800 gambling companies are offering their services under a licence granted by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
The vast choice of gambling services and banking options to make transactions would make some regulation aspects more difficult, as tracking problem gamblers’ actions in such an abundance of gambling operators is tough. Some campaigners have already suggested new rules for online gambling companies, which could be required to share player information through a centralised digital base, just like many land-based casinos already do. Financial institutions across the UK could be required to do the same in order for the new regulatory system to become effective.
The changes should make sure that all financial institutions start offering voluntary exclusion and a cooling-off period for gambling services. While part of them already do, 29 million people in the UK still do not have access to such options. Guaranteeing voluntary self-exclusion schemes and cooling-off periods would help more gambling addicts across the country put a cap on the money they lose on gambling services.
What some campaigners have been insisting on is imposing some limits on gambling companies that have been allowed to operate in what they described as “mainland” Britain while they are actually licenced in other territories featuring lower taxes. For the time being, gambling companies licenced in the UK are required to pay an annual tax of 21% on their online services, while British overseas territories such as Gibraltar offer a much more favourable tax regime of 0.5% rate.
The implementation of the 2005 Gambling Act provided the UK with the chance to expand and become one of the largest gambling markets on a global scale. However, the gambling sector is rapidly changing, which requires the Government and local regulatory authorities to be more proactive and bring a more modern touch to the piece of legislation in order to make it more up-to-date with the current realities.
Since the introduction of the gambling law, technology in the gambling industry has undergone some drastic changes. The same applies to banking services offered by a large number of financial institutions, while a great variety of gambling options have become available to local players.
Introducing some further spending limits across the UK gambling sector could be a good idea. On the other hand, the implementation of a centralised player database becomes more and more necessary in a reality where the best protection against gambling-related harm is needed. Anti-gambling campaigners have insisted that access to self-exclusion schemes and spending limits should be universal, just like the ban on using credit cards for gambling is.
Taxation of gambling companies that do not have a physical presence in the country should be taken into consideration by the Government, too. Additional funding would not only be beneficial for the local communities but could make gambling companies more responsible in providing safer gambling initiatives and better customer support.
In the ideal case scenario, the legislation should be reviewed by a third-party regulator to make sure all decisions are objective. However, the UK Government is set to head the Gambling Act review, so it will be the authority to make all decisions.