The Government and its gambling watchdog have an “unacceptably weak understanding” of the harmful effects of betting and are failing to protect the vulnerable, a parliamentary committee has said.
The powerful House of Commons Public Accounts Committee published a report criticising both the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Gambling Commission for being “slow” to regulate the betting industry as it increasingly moves online.
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “What 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.”
Hillier said the Gambling Commission “needs a radical overhaul” and the Department “must not keep dragging its feet” in bringing forward the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005.
The Committee also criticised the Department for only increasing its budget to treat problem gamblers and being “unwilling” to tackle the real issue.
a torpid, toothless regulator
The report called on them both to set out a clear plan within three months showing how they intend to improve regulation and protect gamblers.
Another Committee member, Richard Holden MP, said: “The lack of any targets or real action to reduce problem gambling is appalling – especially when we know the horrendous impact it can have on individuals and their families.”
Earlier this month, a group of 50 prominent MPs called for a complete ban on gambling advertising to protect the vulnerable, following a year-long inquiry into the UK’s online betting industry.
In its report the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm made more than 30 recommendations, including a ban on all betting advertising, a £2 stake limit on online slot machines and an end to VIP schemes.
The MPs added that the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for more restrictions, as people can currently “gamble with ease from home, at any time of day and at any level, via a mobile phone”.