The ‘Gambling Harm – Time for Action’ report from the House of Lords’ Gambling Select Committee has outlined pages of improvements that need to be made in the industry, concluding that ‘urgent action’ s required to tackle problem gambling.
More than a year in production, the study reveals that cuts to the maximum stake on FOBTs and the prohibition of credit card gambling have only scratched the surface, and calls upon the government and the UK Gambling Commission to go further with their efforts.
Speaking after the report was published on Thursday, the Committee’s chairman Lord Grade of Yarmouth called on the government to impose a mandatory levy on gambling firms, and that individuals with a gambling problem should be treated by the NHS using funds volunteered by the industry.
“Urgent action by the Government is required,” Lord Grade commented. “Lax regulation of the gambling industry must be replaced by a more robust and focussed regime which prioritises the welfare of gamblers ahead of industry profits.”
What Does the Gambling Harm Report Recommend?
First commissioned back in April 2019, the Lords’ Select Committee set out to research the ‘social and economic impacts’ of the gambling industry on punters and wider society.
And in February, Lord Grade – who headed the study – called a meeting with representatives from bet365, William Hill, GVC Holdings, Flutter and SkyBet to hear their views on the future direction of the industry.
The result was the ‘Gambling Harm – Time for Action’ report, which is a huge dossier of recommendations that the House of Lords believes should be implemented to toughen the regulatory framework within which bookies and betting firms operate.
They essentially questioned how fit for purpose the UK Gambling Commission is, recommending their performance is reviewed every three years and that a complimentary statutory independent body, the Gambling Ombudsman Service, is created to assist them.
It was also insinuated that the Commission is too reluctant to punish poorly-behaved operators – an accusation not wholly denied by their chief executive Neil McArthur who said:
“Where the criticisms are justified we will learn from them, but as we have been completely transparent and candid in all the evidence we have given to the various committees, in many areas this and other recent reports are playing back issues we have raised, know we need to work on and are already working to improve,”
Betting operators could also be affected by a raft of measures designed to clamp down on online casino channels, with stake restrictions put in place and all new games tested and verified to see if they rank highly as an ‘indicator of harm’.
Other changes could impact the National Lottery, with the recommendation that the minimum age of players is raised to 18,
There was some good news for punters, however, with the report calling for a ban on the ‘bet to view’ requirement to access live streaming services. It is possible that all bookies’ live streams will be made free-to-air in the future.
In response, the Betting and Gaming Council welcomed the report and its recommendations, and urged the government to review the outdated Gambling Act 2005 in line with study’s findings:
“The BGC welcomes the House of Lords report as a substantial and important report on the future of gambling regulation,”
“There is much in it that we support and whilst we don’t agree with every recommendation, we feel this is an important contribution to the debate and the approach the Lords took was constructive.
“We would now urge the Government to bring forward their planned Review of the Gambling Act without delay and to work with the industry on an evidence-led approach to future regulation.”
Advertising Ban Proposed
Gambling operators have adopted a variety of measures voluntarily that minimises the advertisement of their services on TV to potentially vulnerable viewers.
But the report suggests that this needs to go further, and it proposes a complete ban on letting betting firms sponsor kits and venues.
The recommendation is that teams outside of the Premier League, and non-football sports, would have until 2023 to change in order to let current deals run their course, and the major talking point is that horse racing and greyhound racing would be exempt from the advertising ban.
In a column for the Racing Post, Lord Grade wrote that he ‘recognised the benefits’ of the mutually beneficial partnership between racing and betting firms, although he also identified the inherent risks that relationship brings.
“It is to protect the horseracing industry that we decided to exempt it from our proposed ban on gambling sports advertising,” he continued.
The Lord also referenced the underage gambling fiasco at Royal Ascot in 2019, in which a number of firms were found to have accepted bets from a minor. He said that any bookies who fail further age verification testing checks will be subject to the ‘full range of enforcement action’ available to the Commission.