Just What Will Be in the White Paper on UK Gambling Reform?

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

The wait for the publication of the UK Government’s White Paper on gambling continues. Anti-gambling campaigners and owners of UK casinos remain in the dark as to what the White Paper will contain.

One problem that has been encountered in the past year or so has been the constant changes in the Conservative party. There seem to have been as many shuffles of governmental positions than seen in table games at online casinos.

Lucy Frazer is the latest culture secretary and recently commented on the latest situation. The MP was giving a speech to the campaign group Gambling with Lives. Such speeches do often contain a few clues as to how online casinos and other gambling sites will be affected by the White Paper.

The culture secretary was critical of the way in which enticements are used in the gambling industry. It’s not just the welcome bonuses that are offered by online casinos. There’s also the regular promotions that offer more bonuses if making further deposits into your account.

Frazer told the meeting that she had  recently read the House of Lord’s Gambling Harm Time for Action report. That saw her learning about “really moving stories” including one of a man who tried to self-exclude themselves but kept being drawn back in by the offers made.

Regarding the delay to the publication of the White Paper, the MP acknowledged how frustrating it has been. It will be published soon, she stressed but that has been heard on more than a few occasions.

Another possible clue to the content of the White Paper was also mentioned in her speech. Fraser told the meeting how “I am particularly conscious of the vulnerability of young people.” The MP also spoke of the fact that gambling can affect the families of those who have problems.

What is happening while we all wait for the White Paper to be published? It’s a difficult time for all involved. Not just the campaigners who want to see change but the gambling companies themselves.

“Established and new UK casinos are finding it hard to plan ahead while they don’t know what new laws are being planned by the government, said spokesperson of website casinogambler.co.uk.” They are working on helping people who are suffering gambling problems while playing at online casinos.

There has been a major increase in the number of gamblers using safer gambling tools at online casinos. That followed the Safer Gambling Week that took place last. That event was supported by online casinos and other areas of the gambling industry such as bingo clubs and High Street bookmakers.

Recent figures from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) have shown that the overall problem gambling rate is “statistically stable” at 0.2 per cent. That statistic goes up to the end of December 2022.

The low risk rate fell from 1.9 per cent in 2021 to 1.7. However, the moderate risk rate rose from 0.8 per cent in 2021 to 1.3 per cent.

Discussing the figures, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) were encouraged by the overall results. Their CEO Michael Dugher said they show “further evidence of the positive progress we have made on safer gambling”.

There are fears of what might happen if intrusive affordability checks are part of the White Paper. A new study organised by YouGov for the BGC has shown that if that was the case, many gamblers would leave the regulated online casinos market and head for the unregulated black market.

70% of respondents indicated that if asked for “private financial documents” in order to bet at a site, they are likely to go somewhere that doesn’t make such a request.

Ensuring that fewer gamblers bet at unregulated UK casinos is extremely important. Regulated sites need a UKGC licence. They have become increasingly stricter towards their licence holders in recent years. That includes ordering them to pay millions of pounds in settlements after breaching rules on anti-money laundering and social responsibility.

That isn’t the case with unregulated online casinos and other betting sites. Michael Dugher believes that the recent study shows the “genuine concerns of millions of ordinary punters who feel that the people making decisions about the future of betting are out of touch and have never had a bet in their lives.”

A controversial opinion but the general view is that most gamblers bet safely. Why therefore should they have strict rules imposed on them?

While the BGC admit that there is a need to reform the gambling industry, they want to see changes made that “take a genuinely evidence-based approach” with the measures they have planned for online casinos and other areas of the gambling industry.

What is needed most at the moment though is the White Paper to be published. Then the debate can begin on what the government feels is the best way to update the current gambling laws. They were passed before the arrival of betting at online casinos and are correctly described by many as “outdated.”

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