Friday, 7 August 2020

Cross-Party Think Tank Calls For A Monthly £100 Cap On Gambling

Gambling Addiction

Cross-party think tank The Social Market Foundation (SMF) has called for a monthly £100 cap on online gambling losses as part of a move to prevent gambling-related harm.

A new report published Wednesday by the SMF has called for a series of changes to how the online gambling industry is regulated in the hopes of better protecting players. According to The Guardian, the report, which was compiled by Dr James Noyes, makes a series of recommendations ahead of the UK government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005.

In addition to its suggestion of a £100 monthly cap on online losses, the SMF also suggested that online slots should have maximum bet limits of between £1 and £5, in line with previous recommendations made by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm.

As reported by iGamingBusiness, the report reads: “We recognise that the parameters of the debate over stake limits to online slots have now been established by today’s political and regulatory reality: they range from £1 at the lower end of the spectrum to £5 at the upper end. To propose a limit that is either lower than £1 or higher than £5 would be to ignore this reality.”

The SMF also explained that its suggested £100 “soft cap” on monthly online gambling losses was within players’ average gambling spend and that anymore more than £100 “would be an infringement on other spending necessities for some households”. It also stated that users who want to spend more should be subjected to strict affordability checks.

Also suggested in the SMF’s report were tax penalties for firms based offshore in Gibraltar or the Isle Of Man in the hopes it’d incentive them to move to the UK and help create more jobs while also promote compliance with the nation’s gambling license conditions.

The report also called for the UK Gambling Commission to be scrapped and replaced with a new Gambling Licensing Authority which will have a “specific focus” on licensing and compliance issues. The SMF suggests this new ombudsman would be responsible for customer protection, data, and affordability.

“For too long, we have seen numerous examples of consumers exploited, failed, and harmed by the current tripartite system,” the report reads. “For it to have sufficient independence and status, it is essential that any new gambling ombudsman should have statutory authority that is equal to that of the regulator.”

The final few suggestions made in the report include the introduction of a British gambling “kitemark” which should be given to operators with a valid license that hasn’t breached conditions, an end to all white-label operators, and the introduction of a new license for key account or VIP managers.

The BGC’s Response

The SMF’s suggestions sparked a scathing response from the Betting and Gaming Council who criticised many of the recommendations in a blog post and noted that most gambling operators within the industry already carry out affordability checks.

The blog post on the BGC website reads: “This is a thoughtful study ahead of the Government’s Review of the Gambling Act – a review we fully support. We welcome the fact that, in contrast to the siren voices of prohibitionists who claim problem gambling is high and increasing, this report states that there is no evidence of a rise in problem gambling and that levels have been stable around 0.7% for nearly two decades.

“Although we do support many of the measures contained in the report, the authors share the BGC’s determination to raise standards and we welcome the important acknowledgement during the COVID-19 crisis. We fully endorse the concept of a British gambling kite mark as a sign of operators’ commitment to fairness, quality, and integrity, and the BGC would welcome the opportunity to lead on the development of this concept.”

Touching on the SMF’s suggestion for tighter affordability checks, the BGC said: “We already carry out robust and improved affordability checks, and regularly intervene on customers to ensure they gamble within their means. We disagree with the suggestion of an arbitrary and random low cap on spending and can think of no other area of the economy where the government determines how much an individual can spend.

“We must avoid measures that see safe regulated betting being driven to unregulated, offshore, illegal black market operators online who don’t have the same checks, interventions, and high standards that apply to regulated BGC members.”

The BGC ended the post by writing informing the SMF that new measures must strike a balance between supporting players and being fair. “Measures must be appropriate, evidence-led and fully thought through so as not to jeopardise the 100,000 jobs the industry supports or the over £3 billion in tax revenues it generates for the Exchequer.”

Changing To Gambling Regulation

The news comes as the UK’s gambling industry faces some regulatory changes. Last month, Labour MP and Chair for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm Carolyn Harris revealed that football gambling shirt sponsorships could be banned under the new Gambling Act as it was one of the “most obvious” things to do.

Harris’ claims were echoed by the House Of Lords Select Committee on Gambling who called on the government to ban football shirt sponsorships in its Time For Action report from early July. In it, the Committee warned that the government must do more to prevent gambling-related harm.

What’s more, the UK Gambling Commission has opened a consultation for changes to online slots. The Commission has suggested that a series of changes should be made to online slots including a reduction in the spin speed of all slots, the removal of boost features, the removal of Autoplay features, and the removal of split-screen features.

The Commission is also looking at introducing time limits on play sessions, a minimum prize size, and the introduction of a ban on reverse withdrawals. The Commission hopes that introducing all of these limitations will help protect gamers while also clamping down on players developing gambling-related harm. These new measures come after the Commission introduced a ban on using credit cards for gambling as well as the introduction of an age limit on VIP schemes and loyalty programmes.