Public Resistance to Sweeping Changes to Gambling Laws in the UK Is Growing

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Public Resistance to Sweeping Changes to Gambling Laws in the UK Is Growing

The UK may be setting itself up for failure as it approaches the finish line with its new gambling laws. Previous warnings have hinted that an overzealous regulatory approach could fuel black market gambling growth, and a new survey of gamblers supports that theory.

The Big One
The Big One
The Big One, roller coaster located at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, Lancashire, UK. The ride is symbolic of the UK’s plans to introduce new gambling laws, which aren’t finding a lot of public support. (Image: Pinterest)

A new YouGov survey shows that nearly two-thirds of gamblers (65%) believe there’s a significant risk associated with some of the UK’s proposed gambling law reforms. Specifically, limiting the amount of money bet on would encourage more people to gamble online using unlicensed, unregulated platforms.

Almost 56% of gamblers believe that the government should not limit how much they can bet, according to the survey. The government will present its stance on a review and revision of existing regulations in a white paper before this summer.

Government Ignores the Truth

Michael Dugher, the CEO of Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), commented on the findings. He said that the results proved that gamblers won’t go quietly if the government listens to anti-gambling prohibitionists. These want to interfere with people’s privacy and freedom to choose by implementing across-the-board financial controls and additional bans.

People think politicians live on a different planet as it is. Telling them what they can and cannot do with their own time and their own money isn’t going to help fix that perception,” stated Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher.

The survey arrives just as Marcus Boyle, chairman of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), hints that the regulator will push for tougher penalties against operators that violate the rules. In a piece published in The Times, he stated that the UKGC wants operators to do more than just adhere to the “lowest possible compliance.” Boyle added that the watchdog will withdraw an operator’s license if gambling standards are not met.

He said that operators can expect to see cumulative sanctions packages. These will include not only higher financial penalties but also a series of sanctions to force the operator to change its behavior. These could include fines based on a percentage of the platform’s revenue, suspensions and restrictive licensing measures.

Boyle also advocated for more data on gambling habits to give the watchdog a better understanding of how people gamble and how many are struggling. The chairman stated that the UKGC, despite acknowledging a problem gambling rate of just 0.2% in the country, plans on increasing its data sources and will begin to study the link between suicide and gambling. That type of information, however, should be available prior to reforming the laws, not after.

Operators Already Proactive on Responsible Gambling

Boyle, in collaboration with a number of licensed operators in the UK, has launched a study on algorithms that can help spot problem gamblers. He added that he would also like to establish a “mandatory, independent audit of standards and accreditation for those achieving the highest levels.”

A spokesperson for the BGC said that the organization, as the industry standards body for gaming and betting since 2019, is already working to improve the ecosystem. It began developing protocols and sharing best practices long before the UKGC decided to broach the subject of algorithms.

Our members already use technology including algorithms to identify those at risk of harm and this work will be further strengthened through the recent Gambling Commission guidance on standardising markers of harm which come into effect in September this year, which BGC members will implement,” said a BGC spokesperson.

In addition, the BGC was behind an initiative to implement a whistle-to-whistle ban on advertising, promote safer gaming tools like deposit limits and introduce time-outs. It has also invested more in education and treatment. The organization has supported stronger youth gambling protection measures, a ban on credit cards for gambling purposes and more.

All of this has arrived before the UKGC’s intervention. The watchdog implemented a ban in 2020, but gave an exemption for lottery purchases.

This is despite the fact that the lottery is the number-one gambling activity in the world. It is also, according to the US National Institutes of Health, the activity most frequently associated with problem gamblers.

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