Lords call for ban on sponsorship in wide ranging gambling report

A Lords report into gambling regulation has called for ‘urgent action’ to address harms caused by gambling. 

House of Lords Gambling Select Committee’s report ‘Gambling Harm – Time for Action‘ has taken over a year to compile and the results do not make pretty reading for the industry, the regulator and the government.

On its launch, Committee Chair Lord Grade of Yarmouth said: “Urgent action by the Government is required. 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.

“Addiction is a health problem which should be treated by the NHS and paid for by gambling industry profits. The Government must impose a mandatory levy on the industry. The more harmful a gambling product is, the higher the levy the operator should pay.”

The report makes an enormous 66 recommendations including:

Betting

  • The creation of a statutory independent Gambling Ombudsman Service
  • Ban on ‘bet to view’ streaming contracts
  • More supervision from the regulator on ‘single manning’ in LBOs

Gaming

  • All new games be tested for harm indicators before launch
  • Speed of online games matched with speed of land-based equivalents
  • Online games get categorised like land-based ones with stake restrictions

Marketing

  • Affiliates should be licensed by the Gambling Commission
  • Ban on sports teams kit sponsorship and venue advertising
  • Exemption for horseracing & greyhounds 
  • Exemption until 2023 for non-Premier League football and other sports
  • Independent research into links between advertising and gambling-related harm

Lottery

  • Minimum age for National Lottery and any online gambling should be raised to 18 
  • Lottery duty should be replaced by gross profits tax
  • Commission should look annually at lotteries advertising and admin costs

Regulator

  • Commission needs to look into a new funding structure for the regulator
  • Commission fines should reflect size of operator
  • Gambling Commission should be performance reviewed every three years
  • Gambling should remain with the DCMS

Problem Gambling

  • Introduction of mandatory problem gambling levy
  • Enhanced treatment for problem gambling by NHS
  • Reinstatement of British Gambling Prevalence Survey
  • Operators need clear guidance for affordability checks
  • A system is required to allow companies to share player affordability data
  • Banks should help develop industry-wide protocol for blocking gambling transactions
  • No bonus pay linked to player activity for those in personal contact
  • Operators to make player ‘data sets’ available to researchers

The Betting and Gaming Council said the report showed it was time to get on with the promised review of the 2005 Gambling Act. “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.”

First announced in April 2019, the Lords Select Committee was tasked with reviewing ‘the social and economic impacts of the gambling industry on UK society’.

Upon its announcement, Lord Garde underlined that oversight of the gambling industry had been undermined by a lack of accurate research and reliable facts in relation to gambling’s unique characteristics and social traits.

Last February, the leadership of UK gambling’s five biggest operators, bet365, Sky Bet, GVC Holdings, William Hill and Flutter Entertainment were summoned to a public hearing by Lord Garde.

Probed on problem gambling and social impacts, betting leadership underlined its commitment alongside the BGC to tackle the industry toughest criticisms and challenges with regards to VIP programmes and affordability checks.

Leadership further stated its support of the UKGC’s ‘National Strategy’ governing gambling, backing its collaborative approach against media and political scepticism.

Gambling Commission Chief Executive Neil McArthur added: “We welcome this report and are already working on a number of the recommendations highlighted. As we made clear in our evidence to this and other committees, we need greater resources to be able to meet the challenges ahead.  Our current funding arrangements do not give us the resources we need and we are working closely with DCMS to address that.

“We have made considerable progress in many areas to make gambling safer. We have tightened the regulation of the online sector and taken much tougher enforcement action against operators, including suspending and revoking licences.  In the weeks ahead we will be publishing plans to remove potentially addictive features in games, further improve customer interaction and strengthen affordability checks.

“We recognise that criticism is something that all regulators face.  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.”

The report will make disappointing reading for many members of the industry, not least as it repeats contentious statistics from reports commissioned by anti-gambling campaigners and serves them up as facts in a Parliamentary setting. By not challenging findings by research into suicide and profits from problem gamblers, the industry has effectively allowed them to become part of the narrative. This means the industry will face a far more difficult time arguing against the implementation of disproportionate restrictions that have been created to address this ineffectively-challenged reality.

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