DDN Magazine March 2023 DDN March_2023 | Page 12



The long-delayed gambling white paper is apparently due imminently . But what should be in it , and will lobbying from the industry mean it ’ s full of watered-down proposals ?

W hat has emerged in evidence is a picture of a torpid , toothless regulator that doesn ’ t seem terribly interested in either the harms it exists to reduce or the means it might use to achieve that ,’ is how chair of the Public Accounts Committee , Dame Meg Hillier , described gambling regulator the Gambling Commission in 2020 ( www . drinkanddrugsnews . com / gambling-oversight-complacentand-weak-says-commonscommittee ), adding that a review of the 2005 Gambling Act was long overdue .

The Department for Digital , Culture , Media and Sport ( DCMS ) did launch a review later that year , and the outcome of that – the gambling white paper – is itself now long overdue . Last slated for publication in the summer of 2022 , it ’ s apparently once again due to be published very soon .
NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE The 2005 act was the UK ’ s last significant piece of gambling legislation , and predated the world of instant access to a 24- hour casino for anyone with a smartphone in their pocket . But in the same way that the drinks industry saying ‘ please drink responsibly ’ on adverts shifts responsibility for problem drinking to the individual , gambling ads and websites include ‘ gamble responsibly ’ messages and statements that players can set their limits or impose selfexclusions for set periods .
Judging by the number of fines handed out , however , some of these tools are perhaps not quite as robust as they should be . Last summer the Entain Group was ordered to pay £ 14m for failures at LC International Ltd , its online business which runs Ladbrokes . com , coral . co . uk and foxybingo . com , as well as an additional £ 3m for its Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming Ltd business , which operates its physical premises ( www . drinkanddrugsnews . com / gamblingfirm-hit-with-record-17m-fine ).
Among the failings were an online customer who deposited more than £ 230,000 over an 18-month period with just a single chat interaction from the company . Worryingly , even those customers who were subject to enquiries and restrictions were allowed to open multiple accounts with other Entain brands , including one who was blocked by Coral only to immediately open an account with Ladbrokes and deposit £ 30,000 in a single day .
VAST PROFITS The UK is one of the biggest gambling markets in the world , and its vast profits – like those of the alcohol industry – finance its lobbying power , with press reports that some gambling firms had been telling the government that tighter regulation risked hitting the more than £ 3bn taxes it receives from the industry every year . But while the industry ’ s profits are vast , so are the costs . According to PHE ’ s 2021 Gambling harms : evidence review document , gambling harm costs the country almost £ 1.3bn a year ( www . drinkanddrugsnews . com / cost-of-gambling-harms-at-least-1- 27bn-a-year ). The document even provided estimated figures for the cost of homelessness associated with harmful gambling , at £ 62.8m , as well as gambling-related suicide , at £ 619.2m .
One of the most contentious areas the Gambling Review covers is sports sponsorship , and according to the BBC the likelihood is now that Premier League clubs will be expected to agree – voluntarily – to no longer having the names of gambling firms on the front of their shirts .
PUBLIC SUPPORT Whatever the white paper contains , however , it ’ s likely that any serious moves to tighten gambling regulations will be popular with the public . A 2021 YouGov survey of almost 12,500 people found that more than three quarters of adults backed a pre-9pm ban for gambling adverts on TV and radio , with more than 60 per cent backing a blanket ban on advertising for all gambling products ( www . drinkanddrugsnews . com / three-quarters-back-tightergambling-ad-restrictions ).
The charity Gambling With Lives , which was set up by families bereaved by gambling-related suicide , wants to see a complete end to gambling advertising and sponsorship , a statutory levy on the industry to fund independentlyprovided treatment , research and education , and stringent affordability checks enforced across all gambling operators . It also wants every gambling-related suicide – which according to a 2019 PHE report average out at more than one a day – to be investigated and learned from .
‘ The government now has the biggest chance since our country ’ s current gambling laws