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Sunday, Feb 25, 2024

New gambling reforms revealed - what could proposed changes mean?

New gambling reforms revealed - what could proposed changes mean?

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer says the government's plans will "force companies to step up their checks" to protect vulnerable customers.
The government has announced a raft of gambling reforms, including a new statutory levy on big firms, in a bid to crack down on online addiction.

Other measures announced by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer include maximum stakes for online slot machines and checks to "better protect even those unable to afford small losses".

What do the plans include?

• Statutory gambling levy - ensuring operators help fund treatment services and research. As things are, the amount given is not mandated and some betting firms have paid as little as £1

• New stake limits for online slot games - it will be between £2 and £15 per spin but there will be a consultation on measures to protect 18 to 24-year-olds

• Player protection checks - to safeguard those most at risk of harm before unaffordable losses are incurred

• Further Gambling Commission powers - so the regulator can tackle black market operators through court orders and with internet service providers

• Bonus offer rules - to stop them harming vulnerable people. How free bets are constructed are to be looked at and targeted

• Loopholes closed for under 18s - to ensure they cannot gamble online or through cash fruit machines

• New industry ombudsman - to deal with disputes and rule on redress where people suffer losses due to operator failings to protect players

However, a ban on gambling advertising is not included in the measures - despite the Premier League already announcing a voluntary ban on it on football shirts.

The reforms are formally set out in the government's gambling white paper published today following a series of delays.

UK bookmakers have already started to put estimates on the revenue hit they are likely to face.

Flutter Entertainment, which includes the Paddy Power and Betfair brands and has welcomed the planned shake-up, said its current view was a gross impact of between £50m-£100m per year.

Outlining the government's plans in the Commons, Ms Frazer said the white paper will "force companies to step up their checks" to protect vulnerable customers.

She told MPs: "When gambling becomes addiction, it can wreck lives. Shattered families, lost jobs, foreclosed homes, jail time, suicide.

"Gambling problems in adults have always been measured in terms of money lost, but you cannot put a cost on the loss of dignity, the loss of identity, and, in some cases, the loss of life that it can cause."

Ms Frazer said the white paper would cover six areas of reform, including affordability checks "when losses are likely to be unaffordable or harmful for punters".

She also touched on advertising, which she said saw punters "drawn back into the orbit of online companies with the offer of a free bet or some free spins".

"So, to help stop problem gamblers being bombarded, the Gambling Commission has beefed up its rules on online VIP schemes, already resulting in a 90% reduction in these schemes, and it will now consult on making sure bonus offers are not being deployed in ways which only exacerbate harm," she said.

Responding for Labour in the Commons, shadow minister Alex Davies-Jones branded the white paper "very light in substance" while also criticising the delay to its publication.

She said Labour "welcomes many of the measures in the announcement" and said it was a "move in the right direction".

However, she criticised the fact that the Premier League had voluntarily decided to ban gambling sponsorship only on the front of football shirts and argued that the measure was "weak" because it won't come into effect for three years.

She also called for clarity on the proposed levy on gambling firms and the beefing up of the gambling regulator, adding that it was "vital that affordability checks are set independently from the industry" to ensure the safety of customers.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith welcomed the white paper but said it did not go far enough to protect children from advertising.

The government has been under pressure to act following a number of cases in which people have taken their own lives over their addiction to gambling.

According to the Gambling Commission, around 138,000 people could be problem gambler, with around 1.3 million people engaging in either moderate or low-risk gambling.

Last year, the parents of Jack Ritchie, 24, accused the government of being "asleep at the wheel" in their failure to regulate an industry they described as "predatory" and "parasitic".

A landmark inquest into the suicide of Mr Ritchie found that regulation, NHS treatment and government warnings about the dangers of gambling were "woefully inadequate".

The inquest in Sheffield was the first of its kind to examine the link between suicide and gambling and the way it is regulated.

Gambling With Lives, a charity that was set up by families bereaved by gambling-related suicide, said ahead of the report's publication: "We'll welcome any positives in today's white paper, but it seems much will be pushed to consultation, meaning more delay.

"We've waited years, more than 1,000 people have died while the industry has made billions in profit from harm. We need action now to stop the deaths.

New figures show the NHS received 990 referrals for treatment between April and December 2022, compared with 668 the same period the previous year.

NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said she was "delighted that the government has committed to tackling this cruel disease".

Peter Jackson, chief executive of Flutter Entertainment plc, said welcomed the white paper and said it was a "significant moment" for the sector.

He added: "Whilst we will need to review the detail of the proposals once published, we believe proactive change will lead to a better future for our industry."

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK
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