The biggest factor in everything in the UK gambling industry in the past year or so has been the ongoing review of the gambling laws. Now, the government has signalled that any actual changes to gambling legislation will probably wait until 2022.
This is the conclusion being drawn after an appearance by Den Dean, the Director of Sport and Gambling at the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sports ministry at a Westminster Policy Forum Event.
Dean was speaking at an event called, “the future for gambling regulation”, and went over the current regulatory framework and the long-running review of the 2005 Gambling Act that is looming over the UK gambling industry.
He said: “The intention of the review is to take a step back and take the widest possible look at the whole system of regulation. We are trying to get that balance between respecting consumer freedom and choice on one hand, and prevention of harm to individuals and the wider community on the other.”
The review was launched in December 2020, a year after the government had been elected with a huge majority in a general election.
The gambling act of 2005 was a major turning point in UK gambling. While coverage at the time was largely focussed on high-street bookmakers and a number of new licences for bricks-and-mortar casinos, the massive liberalisation of the act helped to fire the starting gun on off-shore, remote, internet gambling in the UK.
Since then, the UK has become the world’s gambling capital. Gambling is highly visible and sometimes highly controversial. A steady stream of news stories has highlighted the dangers of the problem and addictive gambling, while the business has never been more visible, most notably in a huge number of high profile sponsorship deals with the UK’s top sporting brands.
Dean added: “There are many areas of disagreement on how to achieve this but the thing we can all agree on is that new technologies really have transformed the gambling ecosystem and clearly the wider economy as a whole. Clearly, further, change is going to happen as technology continues to advance.”
The review has been foremost in the minds of UK gambling bosses during 2021. Several companies have made statements about safe gambling, and the majority of gambling advertising on UK TV now seems to be encouraging customers not to gamble.
The UK Gambling Commission, the regulator for the industry in eth UK has also been active, changing rules on slots earlier this year. These new regulations slowed down games and outlawed features that weren’t believed to show losses clearly enough.
Gambling sites now offer a large number of tools designed to keep gamblers safe, including time-outs and exclusion, and monitors of spending and time.
The gambling industry has also spoken out, usually in the form of statements from the BGC (the betting and gaming council, the industry’s largest representative body). Their concerns have included a warning that restrictions on gambling that are too strict would drive players into the completely unregulated black market.
Among trailed regulation changes is a potential staking limit that would put online gambling slots in line with fixed-odds terminals in betting shops. Less likely to be opposed by the industry are advertising restrictions or bans.
The industry is extraordinarily rich, and among its spending are a large number of political donations.
Whatever the review decides it is likely to displease someone. The consultation on these reforms will continue through 2021 and will include the regulator, the industry bodies, and new groups of people with experience of gambling harms.
The industry – and perhaps existing players who fear change – will be glad to learn that no new rules will be imposed in 2021.