The UK’s gambling minister, Stuart Andrew, announced that a once-in-a-generation gambling reform will be implemented by summer next year, addressing concerns that the changes may be abandoned after the next general election or face legal challenges. The Gambling Commission and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will consult on a dozen headline measures in the comprehensive white paper published on Thursday, as well as more than 40 other proposals.
The magnitude of the document, consisting of 92,000 words, has raised concerns that the reforms, initially promised in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, may not be implemented before the next election, scheduled for autumn next year. The culture department has not allocated any additional funding to the commission, and ministers have only promised to review its funding during 2024 to ensure it can deliver the commitments outlined in the white paper.
Consultations Open the Door to Legal Challenges
Industry figures have expressed concerns that the consultations, which are set to start this summer and continue until around the new year, could leave the government vulnerable to legal challenges.
Despite these concerns, the Times reports that gambling minister reassured that some elements of the white paper, such as a new consumer ombudsman, could proceed immediately. “Our intention is everything will be introduced, and in place, by the summer of next year, in time for the next general election,” Andrew said.
The white paper proposes stake limits of between £2 and £15 for online games, basic financial checks for customers who lose more than £125 in a month or £500 in a year, and enhanced checks for losses exceeding £1,000 in a day or £2,000 in 90 days.
The strictest measures will apply to under-25s, in response to concerns that they are less able to regulate their impulses. Gambling companies will also pay a levy of approximately 1% of their annual revenues to fund treatment and research into problem gambling, as well as educate young people about the risks associated with betting.
Industry Reactions to the Reforms
Alun Bowden, an industry analyst at Eilers and Krejcik Gaming, warned that the reforms might not be executed effectively if ministers rush to meet the summer 2024 deadline. “The less rigorous the consultation, the more open you leave it to legal challenges,” he said. Some argue that the government is wasting time on unnecessary consultations where industry consensus already exists.
Carolyn Harris, chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling, praised the upcoming changes, stating, “This is a massive, massive change, right across the industry, it’s a massive achievement.”
Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, a trade body, added, “All our focus will be on delivering these changes as quickly as possible.“