The Labour party has proposed an overhaul of online gambling law after a recent study revealed that mobile betting has lured an extra 1.6 million new young customers.
Labour introduced the Gambling Act 2005 while in government but is now rowing back on the legislation, which The Christian Institute predicted would lead to the proliferation of gambling.
Deputy Leader Tom Watson now says the Act is “unfit for the digital age”.
Labour’s proposals include new restrictions on how much customers can bet and a system of checks to stop people from betting what they cannot afford.
The study by the Gambling Commission revealed that more than half of online gamblers bet regularly using their smartphones and tablets – up by a third in the last four years.
Darren Crocker, a recovering gambling addict from Aberdeen, said gambling “became more sinister and more serious when you could do this via your phone or your laptop because there is no control measure there”.
“You are your own bookmaker with this, and I find it quite terrifying.”
‘Lack of controls’
Campaigners say current regulations leave smartphone gamblers at risk of developing gambling addiction.
Mr Watson said: “Whereas gambling in the offline world is highly regulated, the lack of controls on online gambling is leading to vulnerable consumers suffering huge losses.”
He praised the Government for its move to cut the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), but pointed out that there are still no such limits in place for stakes placed online.
Since the turn of the year, plans to ban gambling on credit cards and to end the sales of scratchcards to under-18s have both been mooted.
Gambling Minister Mims Davies MP said: “We need to be very clear that gambling starts at 18.
“We are very clear that where people are connected to their communities and they want to support causes in appropriate ways, it’s not to stop people from having fun, but it’s also to protect those most vulnerable people.”
Carolyn Harris MP said: “The fact you’re allowed to use credit cards to gamble is appalling. I have spoken to so many people who have used card after card to fuel their addictions.
“The fact it’s that easy for people to destroy their lives is utterly unbelievable.”