Culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has called the 15 year old gambling act an “analogue law in a digital age”, while launching the review into online gambling law reform.
The pandemic held up the review which was supposed to begin earlier this year, but the first stages – known as a call for evidence – have no begun and will run until March next year.
This comes at the same time as the announcement that the minimum age for playing the National Lottery will be raised from 16 to 18.
It certainly sounds like changes a coming.
What is in the New Gambling Act?
Nothing has bene confirmed yet, it will take some months before anything is signed off, but a few key issues being discussed include:
The sponsoring of football clubs is one of the main issues here, with critics saying there is too much exposure to gambling through football.
This could be especially damaging to younger fans, worry many who have long been calling for this review.
They have a point: three quarters of teams in the Premier League have some sort of partnership or sponsorship with a betting company, while in the leagues below that number jumps even higher to 87%.
However, the counter argument is that gambling firms pump much needed money into football, with £40 million being spent in the EFL alone.
During the first lockdown gambling companies voluntarily donated their TV and radio advertising to charities or focused on responsible gambling rather than promoting their products, and many have continued to use TV air time to focus on responsible gambling.
VIP schemes have long been something of a thorn in the industry’s side, and to be fair, there has been a lot of immoral behaviour in this department from some companies.
Of course, this is always put down to rogue VIP managers rather than company policy, and it could quite possibly be true in many cases, but it is an area that damages the reputation of the industry nevertheless.
There have even been rumours that promotions could be banned full stop, although it must be emphasised that this is just hearsay at the moment.
Nevertheless, free bet offers and bonuses are likely to be looked at.
Some sort of maximum stake limit has also been tabled, although how this would work between casino games and sports betting is unclear.
It would most likely tie in with the stricter security and affordability checks also being discussed, with gamblers perhaps being tiered and categorised by their expendable income.
Spin speeds for online slots as well as prize amounts are also under consideration.
This is understandably more difficult for sports betting, but with legal redress for wronged punters being another topic of discussion it will behove gambling companies to get it right.
Gambling Industry Contributions to the UK Economy
The audit isn’t an all out attack on the gambling industry, but Oliver Dowden does want it to be comprehensive.
“The industry has evolved at breakneck speed. This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely.”
Michael Dugher of The Gaming Council has been quick to point out to the minister many of the ways the industry boosts the UK economy.
Not only are around 100,000 people working in the gambling industry, but it contributes £8.7 billion in gross value added and £3.2 billion in tax to HMRC.
Not to mention the many millions that goes to British sports. UK horse racing benefits to the tune of £350 million annually thanks to the horse racing levy, while many other sports such as football, darts, snooker, etc all receive millions in sponsorship.
This review is genuinely welcome.
The gambling industry is still trying to shake off something of an underworld reputation with some, and although it has never been a safer place to bet there is still work to be done.
This is partly down to the speed at which the online industry has progressed, but there is also undeniably malpractice going on in some areas and that needs shutting down fast.
So long as everyone is listened to, customers, campaign groups, the companies themselves, then we should hopefully end up with a gambling act that is fit for the modern age.
Something that protects the vulnerable, without hamstringing the industry or patronising the millions of gamblers who enjoy a flutter safely and responsibly and have done for years.