In their latest publication, “Gambling Review and Reform: Towards a New Regulatory Framework”, The Social Market Foundation (SMF) thinktank has put forward their policy recommendations for the future of gambling and gamblers in the UK.
The most important proposal for gamblers, we believe, is the proposed £100-a-month cap on online gambling losses. The “soft cap” will mean that gamblers will have to prove they can afford to gambler more once they reach the £100-a-month threshold.
Who Is the Social Market Foundation (SMF)?
The SMF is a political think tank that focuses on the effects of public policy. It is based in Westminster, London. They span the political spectrum and use scientific research to propose changes in public policy to help people from all backgrounds.
On their website, they say,
“We bring together people of all parties and none, to develop evidence-based policies that support a fair society and a strong economy.”
They look at different areas of life, such as works, education, industry, public services and the environment.
What Are the New Proposals?
They outline five different proposals for creating a fairer and safer gambling industry for the public.
Following several high-profile stories about online casinos flouting regulatory laws in the UK, they make recommendations to help restore credibility in the UK’s gambling licences.
The SMF is calling for the introduction of a “Kitemark” for licenced operators. The intention is to create a mark of quality for gambling websites. If a gambler sees the kitemark, they know the casino is safe.
Of course, that’s providing the casino isn’t using it fraudulently, but that’s a separate issue. I’m assuming that the Gambling Commission will have a database that gamblers can check to verify the kitemark is genuine.
They’re also calling for an end to “white label” practice. This is where a business buys/rents software from a third party so they can open and operate an online casino. The new casino “borrows” the licence from the operating provider. This is, in effect, a legal loophole that circumvents the checks for obtaining a UK gambling licence.
The report wants changes to various content features for online gambling games. For example, they propose changes on stakes for online slots.
Currently, in the UK, real-world slots have maximum stakes of £2 (as do all fixed-odds betting terminals). The SMF believes similar rules should apply to online slots too.
For non-slot content, they accept that such limits will make the games unviable and say casinos should make changes to game design instead. Although, it’s not yet clear what these changes will be.
The £100 Cap for Gamblers
The part of the report that’s most important to gamblers is the cap on spending of £100-a-month. If the player wants to gamble more money after reaching the threshold, they’ll have to prove to the casino they can afford it.
This initiative comes amid an increase in problem gambling in recent years. They argue that the £100-a-month limit falls well within the average spend for gamblers in the UK. In other words, it’s more likely to affect those with a gambling problem than the average gambler.
The SMF wants the government to amend tax laws for online casinos. Currently, UK gamblers play with a range of casinos who pay taxes elsewhere.
They say that online casinos should pay tax if they have an “onshore footprint” exceeding certain thresholds, e.g. if they have X-amount of capital in the UK or X-number of UK players they should pay tax.
They argue that the current 3-layered system creates too much confusion and bureaucracy, and it needs replacing with a streamlined version that spans multiple government departments.
The content of the report echoes some of the arguments made by MPs in recent weeks. The UK will likely make changes in the coming months and years.
As gamblers, you might find the changes harsh but the idea is to make gambling safer and keep it enjoyable.