UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the rest of the team at Downing Street is leading the new gambling reform, according to a new report from The Guardian.
The UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was expected to launch a review of the current Gambling Act 2005 legislation this autumn but new reports suggest that Boris Johnson and the PM’s closest advisors are now taking control of the reform.
The Gambling Act 2005 was introduced under Tony Blair back in 2005 and helped form the UK Gambling Commission while relaxing most gambling laws across the United Kingdom. In recent months, however, many have criticised the legislation and have claimed it to be outdated, calling for a complete overhaul.
According to The Guardian’s report, Boris Johnson, close advisor Dominic Cummings, and No10 policy unit director Munira Mirza all now have a personal interest in reforming current gambling legislation, with one anonymous MP saying: “The PM just sees it as people being exploited and it’s not him.”
Boris Johnson, Cummings, and Mirza are reportedly pushing for a review which could involve rolling back on sections of the act and leading to new limitations regarding advertising.
Some reform advocates are concerned about the differences of opinion within the DCMS such as Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston who is in favour of a wide-ranging review while DCMS minister Lady Barran is sceptical over the dangers of advertising.
Meanwhile, many members of the UK government believe that the DCMS is conflicted on interests over advertising due to the financial contributions the gambling industry makes to sports teams and broadcasters.
An unnamed MP with knowledge of DCMS told The Guardian: “Like any organisation, departments become quite linked in to these industries [such as sport and broadcasting]… They weren’t that keen on changing tobacco advertising back in the day but it happened.”
However, a DCMS official has denied the rumours, claiming there was no lack of enthusiasm for tackling advertising before insisting that the DCMS was working alongside Downing Street rather than being directed by it.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Harm, led by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, and SNP’s Ronnie Cowan, have been the main campaigners for the gambling reform, but the last few months have seen the reform gain support from other groups and firms including the Betting & Gaming Council and the House of Lords.
The news comes after the Peers for Gambling Reform – one of the largest groups within the House of Lords – launched a new campaign calling for a complete reform of the gambling industry.
As reported by CasinoBeats, the group will work in Parliament and with others to promote the recommendations set out by the House of Lords Select Committee on Gambling to ensure that the UK Gambling Commission adopts its new changes to improve gambling regulation and standards across the United Kingdom.
In a statement, Peers for Gambling Reform has explained that it will press the UK Government for “early and radical action” to “redress the wrongs that are being done”. In addition, the group has laid out a list of recommendations which they expect the UK Gambling Commission to prioritise and implement.
The recommendations include effective affordability checks on gamblers, limits on the speed of play and on stakes with a triennial review on all stake limits, more advanced testing for harm of all new gambling products, a mandatory levy on the gambling industry to better fund research, education, and treatment.
Other recommendations suggested by the group include a ban on direct marketing and an end to sports partnerships, a new Gambling Ombudsman, the implementation of gambling regulation for video game loot boxes, a complete overhaul of VIP and loyalty programmes, and an NHS-led treatment system to treat gambling addiction.
Lord Foster of Bath, who chairs the group, said in a statement: “Given that we have a third of a million problem gamblers, including 55,000 children, and one gambling-related suicide every day, action is urgently needed. Online gambling companies have cashed in on the pandemic, making more profit and putting more lives at risk.
“This new group of 150 peers from across all sections of the Lords seeks to ensure urgent action is taken by the Government to reform our wholly outdated regulation. It is time for action.”
Lord Grade of Yarmouth, the Chair of the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry Committee, praised the recommendations in a statement: “I am delighted to support Peers for Gambling Reform, which has been formed to press for the implementation of the recommendations of the Select Committee which I chaired.
“These are recommendations which need urgent implementation if the harm suffered by problem gamblers and their families is to be alleviated. Most of the recommendations can be implemented without primary legislation; they cannot wait for the long-promised government review of the Gambling Act. I send the group very good wish in taking forward this vital work.”
Speaking in response to the Peers for Gambling Reform group’s comments and recommendations, Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) CEO Michael Dugher said: “It is important to remember that the vast majority of the nearly 30 million UK adults who enjoy an occasional flutter every year, either on the lottery, bingo, sports, casino or gaming, do so perfectly safer.
“But one problem gamblers is one too many and that is why – like the new peers’ group – we also support reform. It is also why we welcomed the House of Lords’ committee report into the social and economic impact of the gambling industry earlier this year.”
He continued: “Since being set up last year, the BGC have introduced a range of measures to ensure we are leading a race to the top on standards. These include cooling-off periods on gaming machines, encouraging deposit limits, closing off VIP schemes to under-25s, and massively increasing funding for research, education, and treatment.
“Our members also introduced the whistle to whistle ban on TV betting ads during live sports programmes, which has reduced the number seen by young people at those times by 97 per cent. And from 1 October, tough new measures will come into force to further prevent under-18s from being able to see betting adverts.
“We want to go further, however, and that is why we look forward to working with the Government on the forthcoming gambling review.”