The Gambling Act 2005 is the basis for virtually all regulation of gambling in Great Britain. In December 2020, the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport announced a review to gambling laws to make sure they are fit for the digital age. The review started with a consultation (16 week call for evidence) with the aim of setting out conclusions and any proposals for reform in a white paper at the end of the year 2021.
The consultation closed at the end of March 2021 and received around 16,000 responses. High-level roundtable meetings are taking place behind closed doors, where industry representatives, the Gambling Commission and people with lived experience of gambling harm have been discussing potential future steps.
In due course, potentially before the end of 2021 or in the new year, and once roundtable sessions and responses have finished and been collated, the government will release a white paper on the review, but changes would unlikely occur before 2023/4.
Through this Review, the government’s objectives are to:
- Examine whether changes are needed to the system of gambling regulation in Great Britain to reflect changes to the gambling landscape since 2005, particularly due to technological advances
- Ensure there is an appropriate balance between consumer freedoms and choice on the one hand, and prevention of harm to vulnerable groups and wider communities on the other
- Make sure customers are suitably protected whenever and wherever they are gambling, and that there is an equitable approach to the regulation of the online and the land based industries.
In July 2021, a debate took place in the Parliament during which MPs expressed their views and the then Minister for Media and Data, John Whittingdale, made clear that the Government want the millions of people who choose to gamble in Britain to be able to do so in a safe way.
He said: “The sector needs to have up-to-date legislation and protections, with a strong regulator with the powers and resources needed to oversee a responsible industry that offers customer choice while protecting players. Gambling is a legitimate leisure activity, and there are millions of gamblers in this country. In the year to March, 40% of all adults surveyed had taken part in at least one form of gambling in the previous four weeks, which is down from 47% in the pre-pandemic year to March 2020. While every single type of gambling comes with an element of risk, some forms are undoubtedly associated with higher risks than others. We know that something like 300,000 people are classified as problem gamblers in this country, and we are very much aware that it can devastate not just their lives but those around them.”
The industry awaits further news, with Chris Philp, the Minister now responsible for the review, stating in a recent parliamentary question:
« The government launched its Review of the Gambling Act 2005 on 8 December with the publication of Terms of Reference and a Call for Evidence. The Review is wide-ranging and aims to ensure that the regulation of gambling is fit for the digital age. The call for evidence included questions on the appropriate mechanism for recouping the societal and regulatory costs of gambling, as well as the benefits and harms surrounding gambling advertising, including football sponsorship. We are carefully considering over 16,000 submissions we received, evidence from ministerial and official meetings with stakeholders, and other more recent evidence including the Public Health England evidence review which was published last month.
We will publish a white paper setting out our conclusions and vision for the sector in due course, and this will include an indication of how any changes will be implemented, whether by legislation or other means. « Alongside the Review, regulators are continuing to raise standards and increase protections for players. Working closely with the Gambling Commission, the Information Commissioner’s Office recently published a report confirming it is possible under data protection law to share data safely and securely between online operators to help prevent gambling related harm. We expect the industry to proceed to trial its planned single customer view solution and will continue to monitor developments closely. »