This briefing is a response to the Government’s deregulation of Britain’s gambling industry. The Gambling Bill 2005 is unprecedented in both its scope and aim of encouraging and facilitating gambling. Yet the evidence overwhelmingly shows the Bill will lead to a massive increase in problem gambling.
The Gambling Commission has been branded “toothless” over new rules which fail to adequately protect gamblers from losing huge sums on online casino games.
The industry regulator announced last week a “package of strict measures” for online slot games, including a ban on games which allow gamblers to bet more often than once every two-and-a-half seconds, and a ban on imagery or sounds which portray losses as wins.
However, as the Commission has placed no upper limits on stakes, gamblers can still lose thousands of pounds a minute.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said the new rules “will help curb the intensity of online gambling”, but fellow MPs say the measures do not go far enough.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, said: “Until we have parity on stakes both online and on land at £2, the industry will continue to profit from the damage addiction causes.”
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, a vice chair of the group, said: “This has proved finally that the Commission is toothless, wet and not fit for purpose – this announcement is kowtowing to the gambling industry. If that’s the best they can do, it’s terrible.”
Writing in The Times, columnist Jawad Iqbal called the new measures “a start”, but said “much tougher action is needed to tackle an overly powerful betting industry that’s destroying lives”.
He said: “The rot started with the 2005 Gambling Act introduced by the New Labour government: gambling was to be treated like any other consumer product and the industry opened up to competition. It has helped turn Britain into one of most deregulated and lucrative gambling markets in the world.”
He added that while problem gambling existed before the current law, “the reality is that problems have become much worse in the era of smartphones, with online slot machines and casino-style games a flick of the finger away, 24 hours a day.
“The authorities need to wake up to the challenges posed by the rapidly changing world of online betting in particular. They need to take more of an interest in the minutiae, particularly the design and development of new products: these are clever and sophisticated games engineered to hook gamblers in and keep them playing at any cost, usually policed by the industry itself.”
Data from the Gambling Commission shows that gamblers lose an average of £67 per month on online slot games – significantly more than on sports betting (£45) and almost double the losses at casinos (£36).
Online slot machines make up nearly 70 per cent of all online takings, which is worth nearly £3.2 billion to the industry.
gamblers lose an average of £67 per month on online slot games, almost double the losses at casinos
According to the NHS, those playing the games were more likely to have gambling problems than those who bet in other ways, with more than one in twelve deemed to be addicts.