Reducing Harms and Operator Interests “Not Incompatible”
The new UK Gambling Minister has stated that protecting consumers and creating proportional regulation are aligned aims.
Speaking this week at GambleAware’s annual conference, UK gambling Minister Paul Scully discussed the ongoing Gambling Review and the approach taken, which considers problem gambling a matter of public health. The Gambling Review began in 2020 with the aim of updating regulations, as the last gambling act was in 2005, pre-online casinos.
Scully said during the conference that the upcoming reforms were not necessarily a case of competing interests, as in many cases, reducing gambling harm and operator interests can be aligned. If gambling is an enjoyable pastime, it shouldn’t endanger players or put them at risk.
During his speech, he stated that as addiction is an issue of public health, it must be the central consideration. Still, regulation must also be fair and proportionate, working for the majority of players who do not experience gambling harms.
Currently, the UK has a problem gambling rate of 0.2%. However, this small percentage obscures that it represents 246,000 British gamblers, with another 1.6 million at risk of gambling harm.
Scully, who was appointed the new gambling minister at the end of October, is also the MP for Sutton Cheam, said it is an issue of public health, recognising that this was also the approach of existing regulation.
“They put in place a wide range of protections for the population as a whole – like specific controls on addictive products and how businesses can operate… There are also specific rules for particular groups, like children. And for people suffering harm, who have greater needs, the rules require targeted interventions and particular support.”
When Will the White Paper Be Released?
The white paper (which is now months overdue and was expected last May) will lay out the government’s new gambling regulations. It’s currently anticipated that the white paper will be published in the following weeks. However, there has been some speculation and concern that it won’t be released this year.
Significant delays were caused by the Johnson government’s end and then the Truss government’s quick exit. Scully is now the fifth gambling minister to oversee the white paper.
What New Regulations Are Expected?
The gambling reform aims to update UK gambling laws so they fit modern online gambling behaviours and better protect those experiencing problem gambling and those at risk.
While nothing is certain until the document becomes public, it’s expected that the white paper will cover potential per-player budget players, “non-intrusive” affordability checks, new bonus regulations, max stake rules, caps on wagering requirements, and more, with some predicting huge industry losses caused by the new rules.
Industry stakeholders, in particular the BGC, have voiced concern and argued for proportionality, producing research that shows how over-regulation can drive players towards the black market and even fewer protections.