On December 8th, the UK Government announced the launch of the much-anticipated review of the gambling laws. These laws will offer the framework for an upcoming revamp of the industry, considering the changing gambling scene, especially in the last 15 years.
This launch comes as part of a call for evidence set to run for 16 weeks. In this review, the focus will be on fortifying the Gambling Commission’s powers along with other issues such as marketing restrictions and regulations for online gaming.
According to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, “Whilst millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analogue law in a digital age. From an era of having a flutter in a high street bookmaker, casino, racecourse or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed.”
As the review gears up to consider the changes the gambling industry has experienced over the past 15 years to make sure it stays relevant with the rather fast digital age, the Government dropped an announcement regarding the National Lottery. According to Nigel Huddleston, Minister, Sport, Tourism and Heritage:
“We’re committed to protecting young people from gambling-related harm which is why we are raising the minimum age for the National Lottery. Patterns of play have changed since its inception, with a shift towards online games, and this change will help make sure the National Lottery, although already low-risk, is not a gateway to problem gambling.”
For that, the Government has considered raising the minimum age to play the National Lottery from the current 16 years to 18 years. This amendment is expected to take effect in October 2021, at the latest.
Apart from increasing the minimum age to play the National Lottery, the Government has more changes in the pipeline to protect consumers from gambling-related harm. Some of these measures include tighter identity checks for online gambling, banning the use of credit cards, stretching support courtesy of the NHS Long Term Plan, and trimming the maximum amount players can bet on fixed-odds betting terminals.
While this may be in the best interest of the bettors, Michael Dugher, CEO of The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) hopes that these changes will not drive consumers away from licensed casino operators and into black market operators. He said:
“I hope Ministers will focus in with laser-like precision on problem gamblers and those at risk. The Government must ensure that any changes do not drive people to the unregulated black market online, where there aren’t any safeguards to protect vulnerable people.”
William Hill became one of the online and retail gaming operators to support the review. However, it emphasized finding the right balance between protecting vulnerable punters and providing quality entertainment. It will be interesting to see just how the government and other stakeholders will strike this balance. In a statement by Ulrik Bengtsson, CEO, William Hill:
“William Hill welcomes the gambling review which the Government has launched today. It is important that the review is evidence-led, strikes the right balance between protecting the vulnerable and the continued enjoyment of the many tens of millions who happily place the occasional bet, as well as taking a critical look at the growing risks of the black market where there are no consumer protections.”