New rules from the UK Gambling Commission, the UK’s only gambling regulator, aren’t enough, and UK players should be limited to stakes of £2 per spin on online games according to MPs commenting in advance of a a major review of gambling laws in the UK.
It is illegal to offer gambling services without a UK Gambling Commission licence, and it is against the law to use sites that aren’t licensed.
A steady stream of negative news about the gambling industry, gambling addiction, and particularly online gambling has put pressure on the UK gambling industry which now awaits the publication of a major review of gambling laws.
In advance of this full review, the UK Gambling Commission last week announced a set of new rules. UKGC has told UK casino sites that they must slow down games and remove autoplay features from their machines.
However, some MPs have said these rules do not go far enough, as players can still lose large amounts of money very quickly.
The sports minister, the Conservative Party’s Nigel Huddleston said the restrictions: “will help curb the intensity of online gambling.”
It’s not enough for some though.
Carolyn Harris, a Labour MP, and the chair of the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, said: “Until we have parity on stakes both online and on land at £2, the industry will continue to profit from the damage addiction causes.”
Her Tory colleague, Iain Duncan Smith, also a member of the group said the rules showed that the UK GC is “toothless, wet and not fit for purpose.”
The industry will not be pleased with Duncan Smith’s view that the reforms are simply, “kowtowing to the gambling industry.”
No-one knows what the major review will bring, but the industry is scrambling to pre-empt it. The industry body has released its own reports, and the Kindred Group, one of the UK’s biggest online gambling sites, released figures that showed it received “just” a few per cent of the money it earns from problem players. Other news reports focussed on the fact this small percentage amounted to 10s of millions of pounds.
The UK GC reported that gamblers each lose an average of £67 a month on slots, more than those who play casino games or who bet on sports. Slots are worth 70% of the industry’s income. Again, this is a big number, about £3.2 billion. The NHS has also found that online slots are more closely linked to addiction than other online games.
The most likely restrictions so-far trailed from this review are an advertising ban (with a particular focus on the extent of gambling advertising around the UK’s top football leagues), and a daily staking limit or losses limit. Carolyn Harris’ call for a top stake of £2 would put online casino games in line with regulated off-line slots and betting terminals.
Whatever the result of this review it seems likely that this year there will be serious changes to the gambling industry in the UK. Players can only look on and wait.