How Will You Be Affected By This Week’s Gambling Laws Review?

This week sees the launch of the Government’s review into UK gambling laws. The wide-ranging review will look at current gambling laws and suggest changes to make them fit for the digital age.

Which gambling laws are the Government reviewing?

It’s the largest review into gambling laws in recent history, so you can expect some big changes to come. The review will focus on three areas of concern:

  1. The National Lottery
  2. Online stake limits, gambling advertising practices, and age requirements
  3. The role of the Gambling Commission (GC) and whether it has enough power

The last area is likely to herald in big changes for the gambling industry. If the GC is given more power, expect to see an even greater clampdown on gambling than we’ve seen in recent months.

In the past year, we’ve seen credit card bans, stricter age verification checks, and changes to maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals. As a result of the review, we expect to see gambling laws becoming stricter still.

Why has the Government launched the review?

With the advent of mainstream internet use, the gambling landscape has changed dramatically. The Government wants to know how the industry has changed over the past 15 years. In particular, how these changes affect gamblers.

The aim is to create a safer gambling industry for gamblers and to protect children and vulnerable people from gambling-related harm. Lawmakers wrote the current set of laws (which fall under the Gambling Act, 2005) for the analogue age, as such, they’re better suited to seaside attractions, racecourses, and bookies. They need updating for the online casino market.

For those of you who like to place a bet, but who want to do it safely, this review can only come as good news.

What is the Government reviewing?

Review section: The National Lottery

The review will look at the rules surrounding the National Lottery. If you read one of our recent articles, you’ll know that the minimum age for playing the National Lottery is changing from 16 to 18 in October 2021.

But more generally, the laws surrounding the National Lottery are outdated. The National Lottery website offers a range of scratchcards and lotteries. When the laws were first introduced (1994), we had one lottery (on Wednesdays and Saturdays) and a handful of physical scratchcards. Now, the online portal offers a huge range of games that are quick money sinks.

Review section: Online stakes limits, advertising, and age limits

The next area under review is online stake and age limits, as well as gambling advertising and targeting. When problem gamblers are being shown adverts for bonuses, there’s definitely a problem with targeted advertising.

The review will look at whether gamblers need better protection in terms of spend limits and stakes. At the moment, players must set their own spend limits. It could be made the responsibility of casinos and gambling providers to verify that players are spending within their means. This is similar to the way that credit cards work, with credit limits set according to income.

It will also investigate if enough is being done to protect children and young adults from gambling-related harm. Loot boxes have come under scrutiny with plenty of flip-flopping about whether they are or aren’t gambling. The review will see if other areas need special attention, such as targeting children with gambling adverts.

Review section: Gambling Commission’s Powers

The Government will look into the strength of powers the Gambling Commission has to tackle problem gambling. Does it have enough teeth to go after rogue casinos and gambling providers? If the review discovers areas that require tougher laws, this will inform changes to the Gambling Act (2005), which in turn will give stronger powers to the GC. They’ve revoked several licences and given out hefty fines but expect better enforcement following the review, which, as well as conferring more power to the GC, is likely to include the Government allocating more resources to the GC to tackle rule-breakers.

The Government is also considering giving greater powers to consumers to bring complaints against gambling operators that breach policy, e.g., when casinos fail to identify problem gamblers and offer them help. This would be similar to other initiatives the Government has implemented to help consumers, such as OFCOM and OFGEM, which allow us to make formal complaints against energy and telecommunications providers.

Summary

The Government claims that it recognises the need to balance people’s enjoyment of gambling against the possible risks. The review aims to patch gambling laws so that it protects vulnerable gamblers from greater harm and to establish better practices to help those who do suffer gambling-related harm, e.g., by expanding gambling care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Following the review, consumers and the GC will come out on top. What about casinos and other gambling establishments? Well, it depends on how well they implement the legal framework.

A picture of a typewriter with the word "review" printed on the paper that's coming out of it.