The Labour Party has proposed a series of tougher limits on online gambling after revealing several new policies.
Speaking on Thursday (February 28) at an Institute of Public Policy Research policy seminar in London, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson announced a series of new policies that would tackle “Britain’s hidden epidemic” should the Labour Party come into power.
Watson stated that the current laws are “unfit for the digital age” and new rules would be created under a new category in the 2005 Gambling Act and would impose a limit on how much users can stake and spend online as well as limit the speed of play.
He said: “Whereas gambling in the offline world is highly regulated, the lack of controls on online gambling is leading to vulnerable consumers suffering huge losses. Too often, operators have either neglected the care of their customers or have been too slow in their due diligence.
“We need to see a culture of limits introduced to internet gambling: a system of thresholds placed on the spend, stake and speed… that will give safeguards to consumers.”
The shadow culture secretary described gambling as a “public health emergency” and spoke of several stories involving online gamblers making heavy losses.
Watson also called for a crackdown on gambling in video games. Features such as loot boxes, where players are encouraged to buy a collection of rewards without knowing what they are until purchased, need more monitoring, Watson said at the same event.
He added: “The natural lookout post for the controls on loot boxes would be the Gambling Commission. I don’t want gaming to become the gateway to gambling. It does seem to me that this might end up with the Gambling Commission.”
Critics of the feature have claimed that the element of chance and the fact that loot boxes are purchased with real money is exposing children to gambling products.
According to The Guardian, the UK Gambling Commission, which regulates the gambling market, does not regulate loot boxes but can intervene if the firm believes the way loot boxes are sold or marketed comes under the 2005 Gambling Act.
A spokesman for the Commission told The Guardian: “Where we are clear that a product has passed the line into gambling and is posing a risk to players, we will take action.
“We have joined forces with other regulators to call on video games companies to address the clear public concern around the risks of gambling and some video games can pose to children. We encourage video games companies to work with their gambling regulators and take action now to address those concerns to make sure that consumers, and particularly children, are protected.”
The news comes amid a crackdown on gambling. In December last year, several gambling operators agreed to a ban on gambling advertisements during live sports games. Meanwhile, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) announced last month new rules that will ban gambling advertisements from appearing on child-friendly websites.
More recently, gambling operator Tombola was banned from displaying gambling advertisements on the I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here smartphone app and the UK Government announced it was considering banning under-18s from purchasing scratchcards.