UK MPs Push for Even More Gambling Restrictions
A cross-party group of 50 influential Members of the UK Parliament announced this week that they aim to pressure the government into further restricting online gambling across the country in a variety of ways.
New measures that the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm hopes to introduce include:
- A £2 limit per bet on slot games
- The closure of all VIP schemes and reward systems
- A complete cessation of all gambling adverts, both online and offline
- More regulatory control over specific aspects of casino games
“Urgent change is needed to stop this industry riding roughshod over people’s lives,” said the group in its latest statement. The group is headed up by Labour MP Carolyn Harris and backed by long-standing Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith.
The same group of MPs was instrumental in pushing through the £2 stake limit on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in high-street betting shops. Previously, customers were allowed to bet up to £100 per stake.
These lawmakers were also among the politicians calling for a ban on credit cards at UK online casinos. That policy took effect last month but has predictably proved difficult to enforce so far.
These MPs also want to re-evaluate the role of the UK’s Gambling Commission, one of the world’s most high-profile and vociferous gambling regulators. These new plans come as the UKGC is severely understaffed and looks set to make even more cuts over the year.
Only a few months ago, the government’s bookkeepers—the National Audit Office—concluded that the UKGC’s £19 million budget was unlikely to keep the regulator “fully effective” in a fast-changing and growing industry.
Compare that £19 million to the £11 billion generated in income, pre-tax, by the UK industry last year, and you will see the disparity. Asking the regulator to do even more work on its stretched staff and budgets may prove a task too far.
The credit card ban was widely understood and taken in good faith by most operators and key figures in the gambling world. However, they might just be gearing up to fight some of these new changes—in both the courts and media.
Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association, was the first to fire a warning shot in a statement on Tuesday 15th. “We believe a total ban is not necessary—such action has wide implications, particularly for the support of sports across media channels, something enjoyed by millions of people right across the UK,” he said.
The Advertising Association represents a huge percentage of all UK businesses—not just gambling ones.
As it rightly pointed out, removing the income from gambling adverts could put many jobs in print and television media at risk as well.
That is an even more important consideration in this current time when the economy is already under pressure from the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Since late March, all professional sports have been on hold, and betting shops have been closed across the country.
Aside from the irony in seeing conservatives who usually advocate for less state regulation now pushing for a wider remit for the UKGC, some of the less headline-worthy measures they suggested aren’t too controversial.
For example, those MPs’ report suggests that “reverse withdrawals” may be targeted for a ban.
This is when casinos don’t take players’ requested withdrawals from their balance until the withdrawal has been processed. It allows the withdrawal to be easily cancelled simply by placing a bet.
Many casinos have dropped this policy in recent years, and reviewers and affiliates often mention when a casino does this. Encouraging the remaining sites that still do this to drop the rule shouldn’t be too difficult.
Other suggested changes might prove almost impossible to enforce—or at least in any reasonable timeframe. Asking developers, casinos, and the UKGC to create a whole new set of custom rules for every single game available in the UK is a minefield of technical and legal problems.
The Betting and Gaming Council also reminded the government of the usual (but true) argument often trotted out when countries look to increase regulation. Without an international framework for online gambling, UK players who feel limited in their domestic market might just head to unlicensed international operators.
“Illegal operators do not have safeguards”, the BGC said bluntly in its first statement.
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