The government is planning a mandatory levy on betting firms to fund treatment services, along with reduced stake limits of between £2 and £15 per spin for online slots games.
The moves form part of the gambling white paper, which has finally been published following multiple delays.
Campaigners have long called for a statutory tax on gambling companies, with the proposed levy on operators designed to ‘help fund treatment services and research, including through the NHS’. Other proposals contained in the document include increased powers for the Gambling Commission, new player protection checks and closing loopholes to ensure that under-18s are unable to gamble online or via physical machines. There will also be a new industry ombudsman to deal with disputes, including where customers suffer losses as a result of operators ‘failing in their player protection duties’. Some of the proposals, however, including the amount to be raised by the statutory levy, are to be put out for further consultation.
The measures add up to a ‘major reform of gambling laws to protect vulnerable users in smartphone era’, the government states. ‘We live in an age where people have a virtual mobile casino in their pockets,’ said culture secretary Lucy Frazer. ‘It has made gambling easier, quicker and often more fun, but when things go wrong it can see people lose thousands of pounds in a few swipes of the screen. So we are stepping in to update the law for those most at risk of harm with a new levy on gambling operators to pay for treatment and education, player protection checks and new online slots stake limits. This will strengthen the safety net and help deliver our long-term plan to help build stronger communities while allowing millions of people to continue to play safely.’
The review was a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver positive change for gambling in Great Britain and for all people impacted by it’, said Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes. ‘Everyone at the commission welcomes today’s publication of the white paper and is determined to work with government and partners to make these changes a reality. Given the correct powers and resources, the Gambling Commission can continue to make gambling safer, fairer and crime free. This white paper is a coherent package of proposals which we believe can significantly support and protect consumers, and improve overall standards in the industry.’
The commission had previously been labelled a ‘torpid, toothless regulator’ by the Public Accounts Committee.
The measures were ‘an important recognition of the changes needed to make sure that legislation around gambling is fit for the digital age’, the GamCare charity stated. ‘We will now take time to carefully review all the proposals and respond to the detail of the white paper and any related consultations,’ said chief executive Anna Hemmings. ‘We receive over 40,000 calls to our National Gambling Helpline every year and we will be looking for those people to share their thoughts on the proposals.’
The charity Gambling with Lives, meanwhile, said it welcomed some of the proposals but would be pushing for an end to all gambling advertising, among other measures. ‘After a long fight we’ve won concessions on some of the key areas but so much more needs to happen to reduce the horrendous harm caused by one of the most loosely regulated gambling industries in the world,’ said co-founder Liz Ritchie. ‘We’ve won the argument against a powerful gambling lobby but this is just the beginning. There’s another family devastated by gambling suicide every day, and we won’t stop until the deaths do.’