Last week (27 April, 2023), the Department for Culture, Media and Sport finally published its long awaited white paper on gambling: High Stakes: Gambling Reform for the Digital Age. This blog post provides a short summary of the main provisions included in its 268 pages.
In her ministerial foreword, Lucy Frazer sets out the Government’s brief:
“At the heart of our Review is making sure that we have the balance right between consumer freedoms and choice on the one hand, and protection from harm on the other. It has become clear that we must do more to protect those at risk of addiction and associated unaffordable losses. We must also pay particular attention to making sure children are protected, including as they become young adults and for the first time are able to gamble on a wide range of products. Prevention of harm will always be better than a cure, so we are determined to strengthen consumer protections and prevent exploitative practices.”
The review says that around 300,000 people in Great Britain are estimated to be experiencing ‘problem gambling’, defined as gambling to a degree which compromises, disrupts, or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits, and a further 1.8 million are identified as gambling at elevated levels of risk.
The Government intends to put new obligations on operators to conduct checks to understand if a customer’s gambling is likely to be unaffordable and harmful. The Gambling Commission will consult on two forms of financial risk check:
- Background checks at moderate levels of spend, to check for financial vulnerability indicators such as County Court Judgments. The suggestion is that these should take place at £125 net loss within a month or £500 within a year.
- At higher levels of spend which may indicate harmful binge gambling or sustained unaffordable losses (proposed thresholds of £1,000 net loss within 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days), there should be a more detailed consideration of a customer’s financial position.
It is suggested that the triggers for enhanced checks should be halved for those aged 18 to 24 given evidence on increased risk.
There is also a proposal to introduce a stake limit for online slots of between £2 and £15 per spin, to structurally limit the risks of harmful play with stricter restrictions for young adults.
The White Paper includes a number of proposals to limit incentives and target online adverts away from children and vulnerable people.
The Government will introduce a statutory levy paid by operators and collected and distributed by the Gambling Commission under the direction and approval of Treasury and DCMS ministers. This will probably be about 1% of revenue and the money will be used to fund gambling treatment services.
Children and young adults
The White Paper says it will “challenge” the industry to improve age verification both online and in the real world and legislate (“when Parliamentary time allows”) to strengthen licensing authority powers in respect of alcohol-licensed premises by making provisions in the Gambling Commission’s code of practice binding.
The Government also pledges to create a new ombudsman to deal with disputes and provide appropriate redress where a customer suffers losses due to operators’ social responsibility failure.