Betting firms await major industry shakeup which will set stake limits for online gambling
A long-awaited shakeup of gambling industry regulations aimed at protecting punters from problem gambling is set to be published.
The White Paper, first promised in December 2020, will be the biggest overhaul of the rules governing the sector since the Gambling Act in 2005 and will be published on Thursday.
Key measures will include updated regulation to catch up with the growth in online gambling, new powers for regulator the Gambling Commission and a tax on gambling firms to fund research, education and treatment for addicts.
Government documents seen by The Independent reveal a planned stake limit for online slots games of between £2 and £15 per spin - with a £2 limit for under-25s. The White Paper will also include new rules on when online operators must check whether customers’ losses are unaffordable.
The Gambling Commission will also be granted new powers to tackle black market operators.
The White Paper will update what the government considers “outdated” rules including a crackdown on under-18s being able to gamble online or using fruit machines and scratchcards.
And it promises to “secure future funding for independent gambling research, education and treatment” with a levy on operators collected by the Gambling Commission. The Independent understands checks will be carried out on gamblers who lose more than £1,000 in a day or £2,000 within a 90-day period.
But an industry source criticised the White Paper, which will be unveiled by culture secretary Lucy Frazer, as much of it will be launched as consultations rather than policies, meaning firms face an even longer wait for clarity.
Betting companies have been left in limbo as the White Paper’s publication has already been delayed five times amid turmoil at the top of the Conservative Party.
The industry source told The Independent: “We were hoping to have a lot more clarity on certain measures, and we would have hoped the government would have thought about some of the areas they are now going to consult on.
“It’s two and a half years of waiting for this moment, and now we are essentially being told all of these consultations across several areas could also take years. It’s not going to be a silver bullet, it will basically be the start of an extended consultation period.”
In a letter to chancellor Jeremy Hunt, seen by The Independent, Ms Frazer said gambling is a “popular activity” in Britain, with around half of adults placing bets each month. She highlighted the sector employs around 100,000 people and contributes £2bn to the Treasury.
But Ms Frazer highlighted that one in 200 people, or around 300,000 in total, are “problem gamblers”. She added that a further 1.8m are at “elevated risk” of harm such as building up debts, relationship breakdown and, in extreme cases, suicide.
“Our proposals are targeted to protect people who are at risk of addiction, catastrophic loss and harm, with minimal disruption to the majority,” Ms Frazer said.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said the White Paper has so far been “beset by chaos, infighting and delay”.
She said: “Gambling regulation has not kept pace with the huge explosion there is with gambling online and on smartphones, with few checks and balances. We’ve had ten different ministers in charge of gambling policy since a White Paper was first promised with dire results for those harmed by unscrupulous practices.
“There is broad consensus in parliament that we need to update analogue gambling regulation so it is fit for the digital age, yet the Conservatives’ failure to govern means this is still some way off.”
Ms Powell said Labour will “work to ensure” gambling laws are urgently updated.