Online slots and casinos ‘likely to be targeted in gambling White Paper’

The Argus
Online slots and casinos ‘likely to be targeted in gambling White Paper’

Gambling minister Chris Philp has given a fresh indication that online casinos and slots will be a focus in the imminent gambling White Paper, saying they are among the games that “worry me the most”.

Mr Philp singled out the two sectors “as we think about the gambling White Paper” as he addressed the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee.

Asked what assessment had been made of gambling harms posed by lotteries, including instant win games, Mr Philp cited the 2018 health survey for England, which suggested problem gambling rates were about 0.9% for draw-based games such as the National Lottery, and 1.4% for scratchcards, “which are considerably lower than for various other activities surveyed, where the range went from 2.7% to 12.7%”.

He added: “The things that worry me the most as we think about the gambling White Paper are things like online slots and online casinos – the areas where people can get really heavily addicted to gambling.

“But, that said, we do want to make sure – although this (lotteries) is a lower-risk form of gambling – we do want to make sure it’s done safely.”

Mr Philp told the committee the National Lottery was the biggest form of gambling in terms of “gross yield”, totalling about £4 billion a year or about a quarter to a third of all UK gambling.

MPs heard that about 40% to 45% of the public gambled in some form every month, and about 30% of the population played the lottery in any given month.

Turning to the use of credit cards in gambling, Kevin Brennan, (Labour, Cardiff West) asked Mr Philp whether the Government’s claim that consumers could no longer gamble using a credit card was true.

Mr Brennan said: “It’s a simple word you’re looking for and it’s got three letters in it, can you say it? It begins with y and it ends with s and it has an e in the middle.”

After Mr Philp and the DCMS director of gambling, Ben Dean, turned to their advisers for guidance, Mr Brennan went on: “You’ve just confirmed to me that the National Lottery is a very major chunk of gambling in this country. And I asked you the very simple question, therefore is it not the case that you can still gamble in this country using a credit card when you play the National Lottery, and you seem incapable…”

Mr Philp answered: “The information I’ve just been given is if you are buying a lottery ticket on its own then you should not be able to use a credit card, but if you are buying a basket of goods, like you are doing your weekly shopping – £100 – and there’s a lottery ticket in there then you would be able to, potentially…”

Mr Brennan replied: “I accept the answer then should have been yes – as long as you buy a Mars bar. That’s what your answer is, basically, isn’t it?”

Mr Philp answered: “Well, I honestly don’t know what the rules are about whether one Mars bar’s enough or whether you need to buy a loo roll and some toilet duck as well.”

Mr Brennan suggested the hearing had entered the “realms of surrealism” before Mr Philp offered to write to the committee with the precise answer.

The MP said: “I’ll tell you what the answer is, the answer is yes, and the next question is: why are you allowed to use a credit card for that form of gambling and not for other forms of gambling?”

Mr Philp said it was a practical consideration to not have to ask a consumer to separate their shopping if it included a lottery ticket.

He and Mr Dean clarified that it was not possible for consumers to go on to the National Lottery website and use a credit card.