The continuing war of words over the future, and most importantly the future regulation, of the UK gambling industry, continues with a contribution from the founder of Gambling With Lives, a charity for the families of those bereaved by suicides related to gambling harms.
“The industry must act more responsibly in its dealings with its customers. They should not be offering bonuses and inducements to persuade people to keep betting or gamble beyond their means,” said Charles Ritchie, who co-founded Gambling With Lives and is now the charity’s co-owner.
The DCMS Ministry (digital, culture, media and sport) is in charge of a review of UK gambling legislation. The 2005 Gambling Act massively liberalised gambling laws in the UK, firing the starting gun on unprecedented expansion in the industry, particularly online as always-on superfast broadband rolled out at the same time. The smartphone revolution has also contributed massively to the accessibility of online gambling and mobile casinos.
Ritchie told Gambling Insider magazine, an industry publication: “We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that it is the current UK licensed and regulated gambling industry that is responsible for virtually all of the addiction and deaths that have happened so far. Regulation cannot be restricted or framed just to allow the UK industry to continue to harm on the scale that it does.
“The industry must act more responsibly in its dealings with its customers. They should not be offering bonuses and inducements to persuade people to keep betting or gamble beyond their means.”
The gambling industry, in the shape of its largest representative body, the Betting and Gaming Council, has been raising its voice in calling for “responsible” regulation change – they recognise that some change is inevitable – by warning that setting rules too strictly will drive gamblers into the completely unregulated black market.
Ritchie said such warnings – backed with a report showing a near double in black market spending – are “scaremongering.”
He said: “Many in the industry used to say that “affordability” was the key to tackling gambling harms. Now as the prospect of action draws near, the same people cry out about the black market.”
He said that the Gambling Commission, the only gambling regulator in the UK that licences all UK gambling businesses, says there is little black market activity in the UK, and that his charity hears very little about black market gambling from its clients and their families.
The DCMS Committee is collecting evidence on gambling reform until the end of this month. A report is due later this year, but any changes are unlikely to be brought into force until next year. The UK Gambling Commission has recently made some steps of its own, setting up a body of people with experience of gambling harm, and reforming the rules on some slot machines that will slow down the play and make some messaging to customers more clear.
The industry itself has been very visibly making changes to its practices and its messaging: the main focus of most current UK gambling advertising is “don’t gamble too much”.