With 362 individual components, it’s a brave soul who sits down with a cup of tea (or perhaps a tall glass of gin) and reads through the Gambling Act 2005.
This piece of legislation was drawn up by the government to update previous rules and regulations that were hopelessly out of date, and set into the motion the statutes that would subsequently lead to the formation of the regulatory body the UK Gambling Commission.
Much has changed in the past 15 years, of course, and particularly so from a technological perspective. More and more people are betting over the internet and on their mobile devices, and the 2005 edition of the legislation hadn’t really taken such a sea-change into consideration.
Other factors, such as gambling related advertising on TV, sponsorships in football and so-called ‘loot boxes’ will also come under the microscope as part of the government’s likely overhaul of the Act, which may have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but is almost certainty going to happen later in 2020 or early next year.
So which are the hottest potatoes that will be potentially reformed?
Gambling Sponsorship in Football
With nine Premier League clubs and 17 out of 24 Championship outfits boasting a betting firm as the main sponsor on their shirts, tens of millions of people of all ages and vulnerabilities are being exposed to gambling every weekend.
It might be argued that that is far too many really, and the House of Lords select committee has already recommended a blanket ban on betting brands on football shirts and advertising hoardings.
That might be a step too far, but Spain has already greatly reduced the exposure of gambling firms in football there through tougher regulation, and by the 2021/22 season it’s probable that only a couple of La Liga clubs will be bedecked in such sponsorship opportunities.
It’s something of a two-way street, of course, with regards to the money being pumped into the game by betting operators – as pointed out by 32Red’s Neil Banbury. “A ban on an industry that supports the sport in such a strong way would clearly have a huge impact – both in terms of initiatives we support but also the broader football pyramid,” he said.
“As the EFL have recently said, the significant contribution betting companies make to the ongoing financial sustainability of professional football at all levels is as important now as it has ever been due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In addition, GVC Holdings devised their own ‘pitching in’ initiative, and that raised millions of pounds for clubs at the lower end of the English footballing pyramid.
Gambling Adverts on TV
Once upon a time, you could barely turn your TV on without Ray Winstone ordering you to ‘bet in-play now!’
Many bookmakers have since voluntarily agreed on cutting back on their advertising, particularly during live matches, however it wouldn’t be a surprise if the government solidified that in law in their Gambling Act reform.
A pre-watershed ban on ads prior to 9pm makes sense, drawing gambling in line with televisual content designed at over 18s, and it is noticeable that the government has ordered a rethink on advertising other ‘harmful’ products, be it fatty foods or alcohol, during daytime hours.
Again, it should be noted the mutual relationship that gambling has with sport, particularly in horse racing – the gambling levy fund pumps tens of millions into racing every year, and much of that kitty is generated as a consequence of TV advertising.
Further protective measures are set to be implemented to protect vulnerable punters when betting online and on their mobile devices.
A ban on credit card deposits has already been introduced, and while measures like ‘reality checks’ have been applauded many campaigners question how successful these really are.
Rumours of weekly/monthly deposit limits sound almost fascistic in their objective, but it would not be a shock to see betting firms instructed to log their customers out of their accounts after a certain period of time online.
Could maximum stake sizes be introduced based upon the individual’s disposable income? That would be an almighty administrative task, but the sense is that the government will leave no stone unturned in making the gambling industry more responsible and safe for all.
UK Gambling Commission To Take Zero Tolerance Approach
One of the interesting talking points of the Gambling Act reform could be the role of the Commission and its ‘fitness for purpose.’
The organisation has many detractors, with some believing it is not doing enough on its own watch to protect the integrity of the betting industry.
Unsurprisingly, the chief executive of the UK Gambling Commission – Neil McArthur – has come out swinging, no doubt trying to impress the government’s law-makers ahead of the upcoming changes. “Firstly, any operator that tries to bend the rules or is unwilling to comply with the high standards we set will find the Commission is willing and able to drive them out of the British market,” McArthur said in a thinly veiled warning for international firms looking to disrupt the UK market.
“Secondly, I think that the ‘experiment’ of working collaboratively to accelerate progress that results in tangible improvements for customers has been shown to work and we want to build on that approach.”