Lukewarm response to gambling white paper

The gambling white paper has finally seen the light of day (, almost two and a half years after the government launched its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

Among its key proposals are:

  • A mandatory levy on gambling firms to fund treatment and research
  • New stake limits for online slots games of between £2 and £15 per spin, as well as a further consultation on ‘greater protections’ for 18- to 24-year-olds
  • ‘Frictionless’ player protection checks to kick in before ‘unaffordable or harmful’ losses are incurred
  • A new industry ombudsman to deal with disputes and rule on redress where customers suffer losses ‘due to an operator failing in their player protection duties’
  • Closing ‘loopholes’ to ensure that under-18s are unable to gamble online or on fruit machines
  • Extra powers for the Gambling Commission to tackle black market operators via the courts, and to work with internet service providers to take down illegal sites

What the document doesn’t contain, however, is any real measures to strengthen regulations around advertising of gambling products, despite widespread public support for tighter restrictions or even a complete ban (

While some gambling charities have given the document a cautious welcome and said it represents a ‘start’, there is also anger that the proposals don’t go far enough – and that the consultation process is still far from over. ‘We now need to push further for an end to all gambling advertising, we need preventative affordability checks when losses reach £100 a month, and we need to do more to make the most dangerous products safer, further reducing stake sizes and play speeds,’ said co-founder of Gambling With Lives, Charles Ritchie. ‘Only then will we be able to see a real reduction in the deaths caused by gambling.’

Below is a round-up of reactions:

‘While the publication of the government’s white paper is a step in the right direction, the scale and pace of the proposed changes are disappointing and represent a significant missed opportunity to fully tackle the harms associated with gambling…We are disappointed there are no proposals to limit gambling advertising, sponsorships and loot boxes targeting children. Like alcohol and tobacco, there is a very strong case for prohibiting or severely limiting gambling advertising and sponsorship on public health grounds. Everyone should be able to live in an environment that is free from gamification and advertising, particularly children.’
Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Royal College of Psychiatrists

‘People who suffer harm from gambling are not weak. They are not unwell because of any so-called vulnerability. They have been sold highly addictive products, designed and promoted to keep them gambling, no matter what. Gambling addiction is a recognised mental health disorder. Somebody has neglected to tell this to Lucy Frazer, secretary of state at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, who has rolled out tired industry lines that everyone loves a flutter and just a small number of people are so weak it harms them … To push new policies out to consultation again is cruel, and the Gambling Commission must now be held responsible for getting on with it without delay and free from industry influence. Let’s see if they have the strength required to stand up to the industry they regulate.’
Will Prochaska, Gambling With Lives

‘The biggest health problem is coming from smartphone games that allow people to carry Las Vegas in their pocket. The risks are very different to someone playing the national lottery or playing bingo, and there is little in the white paper addressing this with any urgency… The recently announced voluntary ban on front-of-shirt advertising in football sends a confusing message (, since it will continue on shirt sleeves, in stadiums, TV, radio and online. Many European countries have imposed significant curbs on advertising, and this represents a big failure of the government to reduce harm. The white paper acknowledges that gambling is harmful to health and must be regulated, but the government seems to struggle to understand that gambling harm and addiction is not the product of a minority of flawed, weak, vulnerable people. The problem is that we are mass advertising and marketing an addictive product that could ensnare anyone.’
Dr Matt Gaskell, Guardian

‘The four-times delayed gambling white paper has finally surfaced – and it’s another win for nanny state enthusiasts. The paper is set to usher in huge breaches in privacy at a relatively low threshold… These checks on people’s background and income are so heavy-handed, they seem like the kinds of rules a government might usher in if the country suffered from a widespread gambling epidemic. But the UK doesn’t – not even close… We have a very good idea of who these problem gamblers are: young men in their late twenties and early thirties. Yet rather than target support to those who suffer from problem gambling, every adult will now be subject to bank balance inquiries and the dredging up of their financial past, which may well put a hold (or longer-term suspension) on what is classified as perfectly legal activity.’
Kate Andrews, Spectator  

 ‘It is a sector that currently generates 86 per cent of its profit from the 5 per cent of gamblers who are addicted or at risk…So while the gambling white paper represents a big step forward in many areas, it’s disappointing that after such a drawn-out process much of the measures will be subject to further consultation… Anyone can get addicted to gambling, and through inadequate regulation the sector has grown reliant on revenues from those experiencing harm. The measures announced on Thursday must be implemented promptly: the industry cannot be allowed to slow down implementation or water down effective policy. Only then will consumers be protected and the sector restrained from the destruction it leaves behind in the pursuit of profit.’
Matt Zarb-Cousin, Guardian

‘Having consistently supported the introduction of a statutory levy, we welcome proposals aimed at improving the current system that provides funding for research, education, and treatment. Universal education is an essential part of the public health response to gambling and gaming harms, and it must be adequately funded over the long term. This is a significant point in a prolonged process, so we should all commend those who played a part in making today happen, however small or large a part they played. In particular, it has been inspiring to hear the compelling voices of lived experience contributing to this debate with real impact.’
YGAM charity

‘Gambling firms hit jackpot in shake-up: Government review introduces less drastic changes than feared’
Mail headline

‘Gambling stocks welcome watered-down white paper’
Investors’ Chronicle headline

Full document at

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