The UK gambling reform has become one of the most hotly debated topics in recent years. Having initially been promised in 2019, the review was repeatedly delayed until early this year when it looked like things were finally moving forward before going quiet yet again. There has been plenty of talk about gambling reform in the UK for a while, which may change the way users are comparing the best casino sign up offers depending on what changes to rules and regulations are put into place.
A Look at The Current Legislation
The reform comes off the back of many critics arguing that the current legislation, which had seen barely any change since the UK Gambling Commission was formed in 2005, was outdated and no longer reflected modern culture. Currently, there are no regulations that specifically cover social media advertising, and the advertising guidelines have been accused of being vague and too relaxed.
The gambling industry is one that is ever-changing, with the way that betting is accessed and the way that people place their bets changing as technology evolves. Whilst this is great news for customers it does mean that gambling legislation can quickly be left behind if laws are not updated – for example, Cryptocurrency betting is increasing in popularity but so far there is little to no regulation surrounding this.
A Change in Advertising Standards
One of the first indications that the gambling reform was making progress was an update around advertising standards, which were released earlier this year. The regulations became increasingly strict with a focus on not appealing to younger audiences. The wording was changed from the initial “should be of no particular appeal to minors” to “should be of absolutely no appeal to minors, reflect any youth culture or include personalities that appeal to young people”. Bookmakers were given two months to adjust their advertising strategy accordingly. The ban on front-of-shirt advertising still has yet to materialise, but many sports teams and bookmakers have already implemented this rule voluntarily and have started to seek alternative sponsorships. Meanwhile, pressure is mounting for bookmakers to be banned from sponsoring sports teams entirely.
Reviewing Gambling Laws
This initial change seemed to point toward reformers taking a harsh line with all parts of the review, but these hopes were dashed when just a few weeks ago the. Department for Culture, Media and Sport was accused of watering down its measures as a result of industry pressure. With the way, people bet changing all the time & even the way things are being advertised being adapted it is no wonder that gambling regulations and advertising standards are something that needs to be addressed, monitored and adapted consistently. This gambling reform may be taking longer than it was first thought, but it will certainly bring some changes with it when it is introduced.
The Protection of Vulnerable Gamblers
The gambling reforms have largely focused on protecting consumers from gambling-related harm, but any calls to further protect customers have been ignored. UK charity GambleAware called for a 1% tax on earnings to pay for more support for problem gamblers and fund research, estimating that it would raise around $176 million. Ignoring GambleAware, the government have suggested introducing an optional levy which resulted in the Betting and Gaming Council being accused of cooperating with bookmakers.
Former leader of the conservatives, Iain Duncan Smith, claimed that he would declare war on the government if they gave in to pressure from gambling firms. The politician’s main complaint stemmed from the removal of the mandatory levy first proposed by GambleAware. Carolyn Harris, chairman of the All-Parliamentary Group on gambling harms also voiced her disappointment at the changes to the white paper, saying that lawmakers had a chance to change gambling for the better, but chose not to take it.
As politicians continue to argue, many critics have pointed out that they do have to walk a fine line. A study conducted by YouGov found that 56% of bettors in the UK were opposed to mandatory deposit limits, and members of parliament have voiced concerns that this could persuade those who disagree with the changes to seek out off-shore and unregulated bookmakers.
According to the most recent study, conducted in September 2021, there were 212,511 gamblers categorised as at-risk or problem. The study also found that an average of 410 people take their own lives due to gambling-related harm each year. The campaigners, charities and ministers that oppose the watering down of the potential new regulations have made a clear case for the rules needing to be stricter. Unfortunately for those in favour of tighter restrictions, money talks, and those on the side of favouring watered-down legislation are part of the industry and have enough money and power to sway things in their favour. With very little movement on the white paper since last year, it’s unlikely that we’ll see changes come into law any time soon.
Gambling in the Future
The white paper was finalised in March and expected to be brought to parliament in May this year, but unsurprisingly there hasn’t been much movement yet. An updated estimate suggested that the white paper could be published in mid-June but this deadline has also been missed. Amid a backdrop of arguments and accusations from both sides, it’s impossible to please everyone which is likely to be delaying the process.
It is impossible to say what gambling will look like in the future but what we do know is the UK gambling legislation isn’t going anywhere. The UK is well known for its acceptance of gambling as a pastime, but a big part of this is because of how well it is managed – rather than just being something people need to find loopholes to participate in. We don’t know what future gambling trends will look like but we do know that when these come into play we are likely to see lots more gambling legislation put into place; which is something the gambling industry is well versed in needing to manage.